MIAMI -- Miami Dolphins receiver Brian Hartline lashed out at Houston Texans rookie safety D.J. Swearinger on Tuesday after Swearinger delivered a low blow that ended the season of Miami tight end Dustin Keller.
Hartline called Swearinger’s explanation for diving at Keller's knee in a preseason game “crap.” As a result of Swearinger's hit, Keller reportedly suffered a torn ACL, MCL, PCL and a dislocated kneecap. He was put on injured reserve by the Dolphins on Tuesday.
“It’s crap,” Hartline said on the “Joe Rose Show” on WQAM in South Florida. “I think that, me personally, if you’re sitting there telling me ‘I’m worried about going high and for the head,’ [that] you consciously went low, then [that] is what you’re trying to tell me.”
But Hartline’s anger toward Swearinger is misguided. Hartline and other offensive players should be more concerned with the NFL's potential to create a growing “low-hit culture” in the league.
The NFL and commissioner Roger Goodell are taking a stance that reducing head injuries is the league’s biggest priority. Large fines and suspensions loom for defenders who risk tackling high. The natural by-product is more NFL defenders will hit low to avoid penalties and fines. Swearinger’s hit on Keller is one example -- and it was within the rules.
There is no perfect answer on this low-hit debate. Preventing concussions and head injuries are important, but season-ending leg injuries also are hard to bounce back from. This is another tough dilemma facing the NFL.