NFL Evolution  


Some players upset that cut block still is legal move in NFL


The NFL has cut down on low blocks, even adding a safety rule against peel-back blocks inside the tackle box this year. However, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review looked at how cut blocks again have been a safety issue this season. Brett Keisel of the Pittsburgh Steelers and other players are speaking out because the league's coaches don't want to make them illegal.

Other low blocks have been legislated out of late, including all on special teams. Crack-back and peel-back blocks are no longer permitted, but the cut block remains.

Keisel ... remained upset with the legality of the cut block this week in preparation for Monday's game at Cincinnati.

"I am not saying all cut blocks, but when someone is engaged, then I don't feel like it is a safe play," he said. "Every year guys get hurt. You wonder how many guys have to go down before something happens."

Texans linebacker Brian Cushing was ... cut blocked last season and missed the remainder of the year. The NFL promised to look at the rule in the offseason, but no change was made.

"As far as I am concerned, it is a block that I can do without," safety Ryan Clark said. "The game wouldn't suffer without it, but it isn't something I see that's going to be taken out of the game anytime soon."

There's a reason for that.

A rule change requires a three-fourths majority (24 votes) from owners, who rely heavily on coaches' opinions. Because the cut block is an integral part of the outside zone-blocking scheme that's become popular, it's unlikely the rule will be altered.

The Steelers are especially bothered by a cut block on center Maurkice Pouncey, who tore his ACL and MCL when he was cut blocked in the season opener. The fact they are still legal bothers NFL Media analyst Shaun O'Hara, a retired NFL center.

"All cut blocks don't end in injury," O'Hara said. "Defenders realize that it is coming, too. Defensive linemen understand it, that it is part of the game. They practice it. It is part of their individual drills."

That's where the difference in opinion comes in. The league cites that a defender who is engaged with a blocker and is cut low by another lineman no more than one spot removed can anticipate the block, making it legal.

"I don't believe that for one bit," Keisel said. "It doesn't matter if you anticipate it because if you don't play the guy in front of you, he is going to blow you back. You are engaged with the man in front of you, trying to beat him, and the backside is coming to cut you."

The latest victim of a cut block appears to be San Francisco 49ers defensive lineman Ian Williams, who suffered a broken ankle on a cut block Sunday night, and teammate Patrick Willis said he was not happy about it, according to CSN Bay Area.

"I feel like as a linebacker or a D-lineman, any cut, it's a man sport -- be a man, hit me up high," Willis said. "Hit like rams. You don't see a ram going and cutting another ram's legs. They hit head to head, pad to pad.

"I feel like that's something the league should look into more. You see some of that stuff, and it's uncalled for. You have a guy who's 300 pounds cutting a guy who's 250 pounds. Do physics to that. Hit the man up high. It should be a good collision."

Willis also said he narrowly avoided a cut block later in the game on a Seattle screen pass.

-- Bill Bradley, contributing editor



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