The hit that ended Browns running back Nick Chubb’s is legal. Should it be?
It’s something Chris Simms and I addressed on PFT Live the morning after a submarine hit from Steelers safety Minkah Fitzpatrick blew out Chubb’s knee. Whether it was or dirty is subjective; whether it was legal is objective.
It is perfectly legal. Ball carriers can be hit any which way the defender chooses, as long as the defender does not lower his helmet and make forcible contact with it.
Fitzpatrick did not do that. He made a legal tackle. But should that tackle be legal?
A decade ago, it wouldn’t have been a question. But as the NFL became obsessive about blows to the head of pass throwers and pass catchers, other players started to complain that the league doesn’t care about knees. The league, possibly motivated in part by the desire to justify the push for more regular-season games, began to limit the situations in which a player could go low when striking another player.
When it comes to getting a ball carrier onto the ground, it’s still legal to aim for the knees. It’s one of the reasons the running back position is so dangerous, so demanding. So unforgiving. Running backs are like giant magnets rolling through a warehouse full of anvils, and the anvils come flying at the magnet from every possible angle.
In Chubb’s case, Fitzpatrick came in low as Chubb was engaged high. The easy tweak to the rulebook would be to prevent all contact below the waist when the ball carrier is engaged above the waist by a would-be tackler. It would be the same concept behind the chop block, which prevents a player from cutting a defensive player who is engaged in an above-the-waist block.
Whether that happens remains to be seen. The formal, annual effort to look at the rules is months away. Will the NFL or the NFL Players Association prioritize a potential discussion on whether a change like this should be made?
While it won’t help Nick Chubb, it could prevent similar injuries in the future.