Brandon Meriweather Suspended For Two Games
A pair of personal fouls drawn in the Redskins’ victory over the Bears on Sunday were the final straws for the league, which suspended the free safety for two games.
BY ZAC BOYER
ASHBURN – After a series of fines totaling $127,000 have not curbed Brandon Meriweather’s reckless play over the past four seasons, the NFL is prepared to make sure its next step will.
The free safety will be suspended “without pay for two games for repeat violations this season of NFL safety rules prohibiting hits to the head and neck area of defenseless players,” the league office announced Monday.
Meriweather was under particular scrutiny for a pair of personal fouls drawn in the Redskins’ 45-41 victory over the Bears on Sunday. He was flagged for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Bears receiver Alshon Jeffery in the third quarter and later for hitting a defenseless receiver, Brandon Marshall, in the fourth.
Per the terms of the suspension, Meriweather will not be able to practice this week, play Sunday against the Broncos, practice next week or play against the Chargers on Nov. 3. The suspension will be lifted on Nov. 4. And, with a base salary this season of $1.2 million, Meriweather will forfeit $141,176.47.
He can appeal the decision, at which point an expedited hearing will take place with either former Ravens center Matt Birk or former head coach Ted Cottrell, who have been jointly appointed by the NFL and the NFL Players Association to handle such hearings.
“No matter what I do, honestly, I feel like I’m gonna be in the wrong,” Meriweather said after Sunday’s game. “If I hit you with my shoulder, and I slide up, they’re still gonna say it’s head-to-head. If I hit you too low, I think somebody just got flagged for hitting somebody too low, so I think it all depends on who’s watching it. I don’t think we can be right.”
Suspending a player for reckless play isn’t unprecedented. Steelers inside linebacker James Harrison was suspended for a helmet-to-helmet hit in 2011. Buccaneers free safety Dashon Goldson was suspended for one game earlier this season for another helmet-to-helmet hit, but upon appeal, the suspension was reduced to a $100,000 fine. Last season, free safety Ed Reed, then with the Ravens, was suspended for a game for a helmet-to-helmet hit but had his punishment modified to a $50,000 fine.
A two-game punishment was likely for Meriweather because appeals have knocked those two suspensions down to heavy fines. With a successful appeal, Meriweather almost assuredly will still miss one game.
Pending the appeal – if Meriweather even decides to do so – he will be placed on the reserve/suspended list, allowing the Redskins to gain an extra roster spot. They have four other safeties: starter Reed Doughty, who sustained a concussion on Sunday, as well as rookie Bacarri Rambo, Jose Gumbs and Trenton Robinson.
The league fined Meriweather $42,000 earlier this season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Packers running back Eddie Lacy, who sustained a concussion on that hit. That fine is still in the appeals process, Meriweather said last week.
He was also fined $50,000 for a helmet-to-helmet hit on then-Ravens tight end Todd Heap in 2010, when he was playing for the Patriots, and had it appealed down to $40,000. He was also fined $25,000 and $20,000 after illegal hits in consecutive games in 2011, when he was playing for the Bears.
Mike Shanahan declined comment on Monday on Meriweather’s pair of hits a day earlier, but said he and the coaching staff have tried to approach Meriweather about his tackling style.
“Sometimes you hit a guy little bit higher than anticipated,” Shanahan said. “I mean, even the last one [on Sunday], he came to the sideline and said, ‘Hey, one guy told me it was a good hit, and the other official told me that he saw it differently,’ so there’s a lot of different interpretations of it.”
Meriweather said that the fines have caused him to try to change his tackling style, but he’s also not entirely sure what more he can do.
“If y’all go back and watch my first five years, as compared to my last three, four games, everybody in the league will tell you I have changed the way I hit,” Meriweather said. “I’m not necessarily lunging myself into people. I’m actually squaring them up. You know, I’m trying to tackle the way I’ve been coached to.”
This report was originally posted on 10/21/13 at 12:48 p.m. and updated on 10/21/13 at 6:01 p.m.