Last night was the return of Eagles QB Sam Bradford to the NFL. Bradford, who hadn't played a NFL snap in almost a year, was making his Eagles debut after going down with his second ACL tear last year. So it should come as no surprise that Terrell Suggs' hit to Bradford's knee was a big deal. Had it been any other QB, we probably wouldn't be talking about this.
Here is the hit that has caused the controversy.
And a more detailed shot of the impact.
Now at first glance, it seems as if Suggs completely ignored the hand off and went straight for Bradford's knees. This simply isn't the case. While it looks like Suggs had plenty of time to adjust for the hand off on the read option, he really didn't.
At this point, Suggs has started his dive and simply can't correct himself. While these NFL players have great reflexes and reaction times, they aren't superhuman. It should also be noted that Bradford's hip and torso turn to get out of the way made the hit look a lot worse then it actually was. Suggs adjusted to Bradford's movement and made a simple wrap tackle. Had this hit been on a running back, we wouldn't have heard a peep about it.
To add insult to injury, Suggs was criticized for targeting Bradford and making an illegal hit. While the rulebook certainly leaves hits like this in a legal grey area, 2013's rule change seems to clarify a lot.
"NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino explains that quarterbacks can be tackled even if they don't have the ball, provided they are still carrying out a fake and have not taken themselves out of the play.
"He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play," Blandino said. "The quarterback makes the pitch, he's still a runner, he can be hit like a runner until he's clearly out of the play."
It will be up to officials to make the difficult determination of whether a quarterback is still part of a play or not. Blandino explained that referees will be looking at posture. If a quarterback looks like a runner, he should be prepared to be hit like a runner. As soon as the quarterback assumes a posture that suggests he is no longer involved in the play, defenses will be flagged for unnecessary roughness if they tackle him."
The play in question was certainly a read option, as Bradford stared down Suggs for the whole play, making the read. This means that Bradford is regarded as a runner, and can be hit like one. Suggs could've legally hit Bradford a lot harder, and he knows it.
Suggs also said: "I could’ve hit him harder on that. I didn’t. I eased up." Eagles not happy, felt it was dirty and intentional hit— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 23, 2015
Another entry in the NFL's rule book adds even more clarity to the matter, and really provides the final verdict.
Check out 'Note 2'. "It is not a foul if the defender wraps in the knee area". That's exactly what happened.
While the first entry, rule 'e' may be misconstrued as what Suggs did, it isn't. Rule e simply protects quarterbacks against malicious hits to the knees, like this one.
If you do the research and read the rule book, you'll find that Suggs is in the clear completely.
But don't tell that to the Eagles.
Asked Peters to expound on Suggs planning hit on Bradford, he said bc they practiced together, Suggs knew he'd get a shot on read option.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) August 23, 2015
Bradford says he thinks Suggs went at his knees intentionally. #Eagles— Eliot Shorr-Parks (@EliotShorrParks) August 23, 2015
Peters said he thinks Suggs is "that type of player, who is dirty and will take shots on the quarterback."— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 23, 2015
But Suggs was unfazed, and won this 'war of words' by throwing down the gauntlet with this.
Suggs on Bradford hit: "When you run the read option, you have to know the rules. If you want to run the read option with your starting ...— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 23, 2015
quarterback that’s had two knee surgeries, that’s on you. That’s not my responsibility to update you on the rule."— Jeff Zrebiec (@jeffzrebiecsun) August 23, 2015
Damn. Suggs has been doing his Summer reading with the rule book, and made Peters and other would-be accusers look silly.
The truth is that Suggs did nothing wrong. I think that prior questionable hits and an over told narrative of his 'dirtiness' contributed to this normal hit being blown out of proportion. But this was not one of those 'questionable hits'.