RICHMOND, Va. -- Brandon Meriweather has received some early reminders in training camp from his new coach, Jay Gruden, and his new defensive backfield partner, Ryan Clark, that he must keep lowering his target. Otherwise, Meriweather will lose money -- and games -- and the Washington Redskins will lose a starter.
Meriweather's hits drew the sort of attention he didn't want last season, leading to a suspension and leaving the Redskins aware of what could happen if they continue.
The veteran safety has been fined more than $135,000 throughout his career for what the NFL deemed illegal hits. Though Meriweather has declined to talk thus far in training camp, others have addressed the topic, including his head coach.
"He understands the next one is going to be a longer suspension," Gruden said. "We talked about that. I told him he is going to get a two-practice suspension if he doesn't lower his target. He's a good player. He's tough, he's physical. He wants to do the right thing."
The Redskins lack proven depth at either safety spot. Clark is 34 years old, with whispers of his having lost range, and Meriweather is one bad hit away from being forced to miss games. The team wants him to be aggressive; they need him to play.
"Sometimes at that position, though, and the ball is in the air, he's trying to knock the ball out and sometimes they unfortunately make contact head-to-head, and it's not intentional," Gruden said. "I don't think he has the intent to injure people. I think he has the intent to get the player down and get the ball out. Sometimes those instances look worse than they are, but he does have to really watch his area of target, and, hopefully, we will keep him on the field for 16 weeks because he is much needed in the secondary."
Clark said he has not talked to Meriweather about his style of play in relation to his health. Clark, noted for his own illegal hits, said that would be like the "pot calling the kettle black."
But Clark has talked to Meriweather and reminded everyone that players want to play with reckless abandon.
"What I tell him is, 'Keep your money,' " Clark said. "And you don't want to give up 15 yards. I tell Brandon to keep playing, we are going to try and save him some money. I'm going to try to talk him out of as many fines as I can this year, but I don't want him to change his game. I want him to lower his strike zone the best he can because that's the rule. Other than that, man, just keep playing football."