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Ward: NFL rules forced me to tackle low
2013-12-09

It was a decision I made to make a tackle on a big man, Ward said.
So Ward hit Gronkowski low, and the timing of the play meant that Wards shoulder drove into Gronkowskis right knee as Gronkowski planted to run.
Gronkowskis knee bent in a way it is not supposed to bend, and he flipped in the air before landing. It was evident immediately that Gronkowski had a serious knee injury, believed now to be a torn ACL.
Ward thought he hit Gronkowski in the quad and didnt realize the seriousness of the situation until 20 seconds later, when a teammate told him the tight end was down. Ward took a knee.
I honestly prayed for him, Ward said.
And when Gronkowski was carted off, Ward approached him to shake his hand.
My intention is never to hurt anyone, Ward said. Thats not what this game is about. Thats not how I play. I hate to see guys go down with any kind of injury. I just wanted him to know, whether he accepted it or not, it wasnt an intentional hit. We have to play this game. We have to play the way that they force us to.
Which means avoid a high hit. Browns defensive back Jordan Poyer can vouch for that fact. His hit to the shoulder of Julian Edelman after a late touchdown was flagged as unnecessary on a defenseless receiver. The resulting penalty helped New Englands field position when the Patriots recovered the onside kick.
Had Ward made a similar kind of hit, hed have risked being fined, especially if Gronkowski had ducked or flinched.
Its kind of being caught between a rock and a hard place, he said. Its a decision you have to make, but you have to follow the rules at the same time. Gronks a big dude. Hes not small by any means, so already he has that height. It just makes it difficult. I made a tackle. Unfortunately he got hurt. If he would have got up, there would have been no discussion about this right now.
There used to be an unwritten rule among players never to hit an opponent in the knee or from behind. But those unwritten rules have been trumped by the new ones from the league. Ward predicted last season that the emphasis on eliminating hits to the head would result in more low tackles and knee injuries. He repeated that position on Sunday.
When they set the rules, everyone knew what was going to happen, he said. This can happen if you have those type of situations. Its pretty much inevitable. And they force our hand with this.
Ward could have tried to hit Gronkowski at the waist, but hes giving up seven inches and 65 pounds to the tight end. If he tries to make a high tackle and misses it, he loses his job.
Ive been fined three times, he said. And I dont like playing for free. You can ask anybody in this league, would they like play for free? No. ... [And] I cant risk [suspension]. I wont risk that. Ive got to play within the rules.
And the way the rules are written, there seems to be nothing illegal about a hit like Wards.




PHILADELPHIA EAGLES (0-0) at WASHINGTON REDSKINS (0-0)
2013-09-09

Two exciting dual-threat quarterbacks play under the lights on Monday when Eagles QB Michael Vick tries to outscore Redskins QB Robert Griffin III.
Griffin put up insane numbers during his teams sweep of Philly last year, completing 30-of-39 passes for 398 yards and 6 TD, plus 88 more running yards. He wont scramble as much with his knee brace this season, but Washington's ground game is in very capable hands (and feet). Redskins RB Alfred Morris also hurt the Eagles last season with 191 total yards in the two wins. Phillys defense got a major overhaul in personnel, and new head coach Chip Kelly has delivered his up-tempo offense from Oregon that centers around Vick and RB LeSean McCoy. He'll look to get his new team back to respectability after a 4-12 season, and could notch that first win Monday considering Washington is 11-24 ATS (31percent) in September home games since 1992. Also, favorites that allowed 5.4+ yards per play in their previous season like the Redskins are just 20-47 ATS (30percent) versus division opponents over the past decade. However, not all is grim for Washington, considering the Eagles were 0-7 ATS when the line was between +3 and -3 last season.
The Eagles, who scored just 17.5 PPG last year (fourth-fewest in NFL) will surely play up-tempo with new head coach Chip Kelly, but new offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur is from the Andy Reid coaching tree and should bring a more traditional touch to this offense. RB LeSean McCoy will take the majority of the carries and QB Michael Vick will get to run a few keepers. With No. 1 receiver Jeremy Maclin out for the year with a torn ACL, WR DeSean Jackson will likely get more intermediate targets. This should help the team's poor 6.1 passing YPA in 2013 that ranked 26th in the league. The Eagles hope new defensive coordinator Billy Davis can improve the teams pathetic 13 takeaways in 2012 (tied for last in NFL). This led to the club allowing 27.8 PPG, which tied them for the league's fourth-worst scoring defense. Davis 3-4 based scheme will operate in multiple looks with several blitz packages. It will feature many new faces, such as mountainous NT Isaac Sopoaga, pass-rushing OLB Connor Barwin and a brand new secondary of CB Bradley Fletcher, CB Cary Williams, FS Kenny Phillips and SS Pat Chung. This back four hopes to pick off much more than the eight passes that last year's defense managed. The only major injury concern for the defense is that Williams is questionable with a hamstring injury.
RB Alfred Morris is a three-down workhorse, but everything the Redskins do is based on QB Robert Griffin III. Its head coach Mike Shanahans classic zone blocking up front in the running game, but with the added threat of Griffin keeping it. Washington piled up a league-best 169 rushing YPG last year, and also led the NFL with 6.2 yards per play. The passing game uses a lot of play-action and rollouts with WR Pierre Garcon the closest thing to a No. 1 receiver, getting a lot of catch-and-run opportunities. TE Fred Davis is the No. 2 option for Griffin. Although the team finished 20th in passing offense (214 YPG), it still posted 27.3 PPG, good for fourth-best in the NFL. Because the Redskins stuffed the run so effectively (96 YPG allowed, 5th in NFL), opponents chose to throw on them more than any NFL team at nearly 40 attempts per game. Rookie CB David Amerson and former Bucs CB E.J. Biggers should help the overworked secondary. DE/OLB Ryan Kerrigan (8 sacks) was the only player to record at least five sacks, but ageless ILB London Fletcher, 38, is still a highly productive linebacker and team leader on defense. The Redskins will be missing some key players on Monday, including DE Jarvis Jenkins (suspension), DE Adam Carriker (quad), LB Rob Jackson (suspension), CB DeAngelo Hall (ankle) and S Philip Thomas (foot).


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2013-01-30