Something has to give. Something needs to change. Julius Thomas is not a dirty player. Thomas is actually a stand up guy. The same guy who sought out Antonio Cromartie after the contest to pass along his well wishes towards Calais Campbell. With that being said, the chop/cut block has no place in the NFL and is one of the ugliest things seen on a football field. The NFL already has enough players going low, around the knees, to make tackles and can do without players doing the same on blocks.
For all that is made of player safety by much maligned Commissioner Roger Goodell, since the beginning of his reign over the NFL, defensive players have seen rule change after rule change to protect offensive players, all the while defenders are ignored. It all comes down to the language the NFL uses. While chop blocks are a 15 yard penalty, the same action (a cut block) is a perfectly legal play. These blocks are where offensive players generally target a player around the knee area to make a block and "cut" them down.
When I first saw the play in question, my first thought was disgust. As I mentioned before, Julius Thomas is not a dirty player, but the block, in my opinion, was a dirty play. It was a dirty play when it happened to Lerentee McCray and when it happened to Derek Wolfe last season. The play falls on the coaching staff. Did the play design call for Thomas to make that block the way he made it? Head coach, John Fox, denies he coaches this technique. However, while the debate has centered around Julius Thomas and his block, the responsibility really lies with the coaching staff, the way they coach and their play design.
The response has been swift. Following the game, Arizona Cardinals head coach, Bruce Arians, called the play "the dirtiest play I've ever seen (in 37 years) in the National Football League." He followed up this claim on Monday by suggesting the play was premeditated. Larry Fitzgerald also chimed in saying "it was bulls---" prior to catching himself. The NFL released a statement, affirming the play was called correctly and the block was indeed illegal.
For his part, Fox said this about the play.
"I believe that's probably our first chop block call in our tenure here over four years. It was a look that we had not seen much of; we weren't targeting anybody in particular. Calais was lined up at end and he spends most of his time inside. It was a three-man rush and we didn't communicate as well as we'd like. I never like to see any player injured, including an opponent's player. It cost us a 77-yard touchdown, so we're not coaching that."
It is hard for me to watch plays like the block Thomas made. It is hard to watch a low hit on an offensive player. It is hard to watch any injury involving a player's knees. As an individual who has suffered through an ACL reconstruction, every time I see a knee injury I cringe. I know what kind of pain it causes. I know what rehabilitation from this injury is like. The NFL needs to do something to protect players' knees. We are a mere 5 weeks into the season and there are already 32 players who are on IR or PUP due to knee injuries. This number doesn't even take into account the number of players lost to season ending Achilles injuries.
Something has to be done. Something needs to change. This issue presents a great opportunity for the league to show that they care more about protecting players than they do about profit.
Today, Julius Thomas was fined $8,268 by the NFL for his chop block on Calais Campbell. It is a standard, slotted fine for a first offense.
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