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Willie McGinest: Defenseless players are top issue in hits

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

How much of an impact will the NFL's new rules on contact have on the way football is played?

Former linebacker Willie McGinest said Wednesday on NFL Network's "NFL Total Access" that there may be some question about where players are supposed to target ball carriers.

"I'm not debating about the football hits, when you go through a guy's legs or his thigh pads. Those are natural football hits," McGinest said. "I think (it's a problem) ... when a guy deliberately goes down at a lineman when he has nothing to do with the play and goes directly at his knee as far as a football move.

"When a guy like me goes to bring down a tackler, it is the difference between a linebacker who is 265 pounds going in to tackle somebody and a defensive back who is 195 pounds trying to tackle a 230-pound running back."

Former running back LaDainian Tomlinson said if the league cracks down on hits to the knee -- like the one D.J. Swearinger used that ended Dustin Keller's season two weeks ago -- it still leaves a lot of body for the defenders to hit. But the problem is still the low hits to a ball carrier's legs, he said.

"Particularly when a (ball carrier) is not looking at (the defender)," Tomlinson said. "That's the only problem I have with hitting a guy low. When that guy is not looking at you, that (ball carrier) doesn't know (you're there). He's defenseless.

"But if a guy is squared up and you're looking at each other, I think it's fair game to hit that (ball carrier) wherever you choose. At that point, he sees you and you see him. I think it's fair game."

McGinest added that he thought the "strike zone" in football was fine. But players still have to learn to take the head out of the tackle.

"The problem is with the crown of the helmet," he said. "There's a problem with attacking someone with the crown of your helmet and his head. It's not tackling a guy up high or going to a guy's knee. It's when a guy is defenseless ... I have an issue with that."

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