Former Chicago Bears receiver Tom Waddle, who sustained several concussions during his six-year career, said there's no room in the game for what he perceives as the dirty and dangerous play of Bears safety Brandon Meriweather.
Meriweather was flagged for unnecessary roughness on Monday night during the Bears' 24-13 loss to the Detroit Lions. Meriweather has been fined twice, including earlier this season, for helmet-to-helmet shots.
Waddle, who co-hosts "The Waddle & Silvy Show" on ESPN 1000, used his platform to criticize Meriweather, who later responded.
"I don't approve of the way he plays the game," Waddle said. "And you can call me a sissy all you want. OK? I was on the receiving end of a lot of head-to-head hits. And maybe it's the reason I act the way I do. But in football there are going to be moments when a guy is trying to make a tackle and his helmet hits yours. It's going to happen, and in today's game you're going to get flagged for it. And that's the way it is.
"Intent, to me, means a lot. If you make helmet-to-helmet contact and you're just trying to play good, solid NFL football and you get flagged I'll give you a pass. You have to be aware of it, maybe you need to work on your tackling technique, get the head to the side and wrap your arms, but I can give you a pass. When I interpret the way you go about your job that you have the intent to hurt somebody, I've got no time for you. I've got no place for you. The game's got no place for you."
Someone tweeted to Meriweather that Waddle said he should be benched because his intent is to lead with his head, and Meriweather responded: No that's not true.
"He's going to hurt himself, and he's going to hurt someone else because of the intent," said Waddle, who played for the Bears from 1989-94. "And maybe that intent is not in his heart. I don't know Brandon. I haven't had a discussion with him. But it sure looks by the way he plays the game that the intent isn't to put a big hit on someone and legally knock them out, it's to hurt someone."
Meriweather made two Pro Bowls with the New England Patriots, which is why it raised some eyebrows in Chicago when the 27-year-old was cut from the Patriots before the season.
"I didn't watch Brandon Meriweather on a week-to-week basis in New England," said Waddle, who also is an analyst for the NFL Network. "I thought the signing of Brandon Meriweather was a good idea. You were weak at safety, had some issues, you had some injuries. [Bears general manager Jerry Angelo] gave him over $3 million to come in.
"I did not realize how undisciplined a player Brandon Meriweather was. He comes with two Pro Bowls. And he came with a lot of interceptions. But ... red flag goes up when a guy like Bill Belichick decides to let you go."
Meriweather has 19 tackles and two passes defended this season. Bears' opponents are averaging 284 passing yards this season, which ranks 27th in the NFL.
Waddle has a problem with how Meriweather has fit into Lovie Smith's Cover-2 scheme, as well as what he perceives as vicious intent. And Waddle saw a difference in the hit Monday that resulted in Brian Urlacher receiving a 15-yard penalty. Replays seemed to indicate Urlacher actually led with his shoulder.
"I'm giving [Meriweather] a shorter leash because I don't approve of the way he plays the game," Waddle said. "The game is vicious enough. If you're a player whose intent is to hurt another member of your football fraternity ... the Brian Urlacher hit on Tony Scheffler yesterday was clean. It was a clean hit, he led with his shoulder. I've got no problem with Brian Urlacher. I thought that hit was legit. Brian Urlacher -- if his intent was to hurt or maim -- he would have dropped his head and led with his head.
"What Brandon does is he leads with his helmet all the time. There's no place in the game, brother, at this particular time for that. It's vicious enough. And when your intent, in my humble opinion, is to hurt or maim, I've got no time for you, and I don't think the game's got any place for you."