Cut Blocks: Not illegal, but dirty

Panthers coach John Fox appealed to the league to change its rule allowing offensive players to "cut block" after his nearly losing his star defensive end to a major injury over the weekend. In the first quarter of Sunday's game against the Atlanta Falcons, Pro Bowl defensive end Julius Peppers was racing down the line, several yards away from the action. As Peppers tried to get in position to make a tackle on a running play, Falcons tight end Alge Crumpler dove head-first into his left leg.

Peppers' leg bent awkwardly, and he remained on the field in obvious pain for several minutes.

Peppers later returned to the game, but on his first play back, the Falcons ran a similar play and an offensive lineman went after the same leg.

This time, however, Peppers eluded him by jumping over the block.

As it stands now, there's nothing illegal about a low "cut block" as long as the defensive player is not engaged with another blocker and providing the hit is in the front of the leg.

"The league has already addressed that, and until the rules change as far as cut-blocking and the legality of it, those things are going to continue to happen," Fox said.

When asked if he'd like to see the rule changed, Fox replied, "Personally, yes. But I'm only one-millionth of a vote.

"I think we have to look at the cutting. We looked at it last year, and there were some adjustments to it, particularly on peel-back (blocks).

"I know several years ago that they took cut-blocking out of the kicking game, and several teams worried there wouldn't be any good kick returns and whatnot because of it, but we kind of made do with that."

Fox believes the NFL will eventually outlaw cut blocks completely.

"It will only be a matter of time before, I believe, it's (changed) on the other side of the ball," Fox said.

After the game, Peppers said he doesn't believe Crumpler, a former college teammate he's known for more than 10 years, tried to injure him and said that's simply part of football. Peppers likely will be listed as questionable this week on the injury report for Tampa Bay, but said after Sunday's game he plans to play.

The Denver Broncos, in particular, are viewed as a fierce cut-blocking team.

Denver's former offensive line coach, Alex Gibbs, spent last year with the Falcons, and obviously some of his blocking techniques have carried of this season.

In the past, the Panthers lost defensive lineman Kavika Pittman to a career-ending injury on a cut block by receiver Keenan McCardell.

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