Result doesn't mean Swearinger plays dirty

HOUSTON -- There was a clear resignation in Texans safety D.J. Swearinger's voice as he spoke about the hit he made last night against Broncos receiver Wes Welker.

It's a very familiar tone for anyone who listens to defensive backs.

What are we supposed to do?

When he spoke in the locker room after the game, Swearinger didn't know the hit had caused Welker's third concussion in less than a year. What he knew was that he tried to hit his shoulder against a receiver's shoulder, when the receiver he aimed for lowered his head.

A lot of the ire directed toward Swearinger, including that of Welker's quarterback, Peyton Manning, had to do with the result of the play. It's a mistake, though, to think that the ends explain the means.

It was a dangerous hit, but not a dirty one. It had a frightening consequence for a man whose brain has taken a lot in the past nine months. But that fact doesn't change what Swearinger did and what he was trying to do. He was not trying to hit Welker in the head. He was not trying to rattle Welker's brain into another concussion.

Swearinger was caught in the middle of a somewhat similar situation last season.

Back then, Swearinger was a rookie in his first preseason, trying to figure out how he was supposed to hit in the NFL. He tackled Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller low, tearing apart Keller's knee. Proud of the hit, before he knew what he'd done, Swearinger celebrated. Keller's teammates unleashed their wrath, not accepting the apology that followed once Swearinger found out how badly Keller was hurt.

At the time, Swearinger said he knew if he went high a fine or flag would have come.

"These guys know what a proper tackle is," Texans coach Bill O'Brien said today. "It’s not leading with the head, it’s hitting with your shoulder and hitting between basically the shoulders and the waist and not above the neck area. We just continually show that to them, but I think last night's play was a tough one to really say, 'Hey, you were at fault there.'"

It was a play that left Swearinger wondering what he was supposed to do.