By TOM PELISSERO — USA TODAY Sports
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. – Calling the hit that sidelined teammate Kevin Williams “uncalled-for” and “really quite ridiculous,” Minnesota Vikings linebacker Chad Greenway on Tuesday pleaded for the NFL to improve equality in protection for all players on the field.
“It’s not even about downfield cut blocks,” Greenway told USA TODAY Sports after issuing a strong rebuke of San Francisco 49ers backup guard Joe Looney to reporters at the Vikings’ facility.
“It’s more about just being consistent with everybody. If you’re going to call it one way, call it that way for everybody. We’ve implemented so many different rules that we have to abide by defensively that we get fined vastly more than the offensive side.
“We have so many sanctions against us, why can’t we be protected?”
Williams, the six-time Pro Bowl selection, avoided ligament damage but is questionable for the Sept. 8 opener after suffering a significant bone contusion and posterior capsular strain in his right knee on the low block by Looney in the third quarter of Sunday’s preseason game.
Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said he already has spoken to NFL officials, who “concur it’s not the type of play that we want in the game for player safety reasons.”
That doesn’t necessarily mean Looney will be subject to league discipline. The NFL outlawed peelback blocks in the offseason, but Looney’s block came from in front of Williams, who was moving laterally, and didn’t draw a flag, even though it occurred 8 yards away from the play.
Ray Anderson, the NFL’s chief of football operations, told the Associated Press on Tuesday that the league will closely monitor hits to the knees on defenseless players this season and could extend its rules to protect those players if there’s evidence that it’s “becoming a problem.”
That would be welcome news to Greenway, the Vikings’ union representative, who said low blocks were specifically discussed with the league and officials before the preseason started.
“It’s just unnecessary,” Greenway said. “(Williams) wasn’t going to make the play. He wasn’t going to be a part of the play. I understand that guy (Looney)’s trying to earn a job as well, but he could easily just hit him high. He didn’t need to go anywhere near that (knee).”
Had the roles been reversed and Williams hit a quarterback low, Greenway pointed out, discipline could have been severe.
Frazier said the Vikings are holding out hope that Williams, who has missed only two games because of injury in 10 NFL seasons, will be ready for the opener.
For now, though, Williams is sidelined, and the fact Looney’s block technically may have been legal doesn’t do anything to ease Greenway’s mind.
“It just gives them a way to say, ‘Well, look, see? His shoulders weren’t turned back to his sideline. It wasn’t a vicious block,’” Greenway said. “It’s just creating an out for yourself.”
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