Rahim Moore: Playing in the Gray Area

Rahim Moore

MOORE: ... means no harm, but knows he has to make the hit.

DENVER – There are two short-term certainties in Rahim Moore’s professional life. One is that his team will practice four times between Monday and Thursday. The other is that at some point, he will walk to his locker-room stall and see a FedEx package from the National Football League waiting for him.

But by next Saturday night, there will be one more certainty: the Seattle Seahawks — and, the Broncos hope, every opponent that follows — will make precise note of where Moore roams at all times.

That is the realistic result of Moore’s hit on Buffalo’s Donald Jones. Yes, it resulted in a 15-yard penalty for hitting a defenseless receiver. Yes, Moore’s helmet appeared to make ample contact, evidenced by the way Jones’s helmet jerked violently upon contact. And yes, Moore launched himself toward the receiver.

But the message laid down by the hit and its aftermath is undeniable: enter Moore’s territory at your own peril.

“I mean no harm, but you know what? It’s football,” Moore said.

“f you don’t be physical, somebody else will. I’m a jokester; I like to laugh, but once I snap my fourth (chin) strap up, I literally turn into a different person. I focus, man. I’m dialed in.”

“That’s the type of football we play. It’s aggressive,” added defensive end Elvis Dumervil.

But aggression has gradually come to lead to penalties, fines and even suspensions — with the scope and breadth of the offending hits increasing with every season.

To some degree, the collective culture of the NFL remains contradictory. Big plays are demanded of defenders, but the tactics necessary for some of them are illegal. Hits have been glorified in the past — perhaps you remember the NFL Crunch Course series of home videos — but now are vilified.

The point of the sport demands making the play. The annually evolving rules demand pulling up and slowing oneself down, which can give the receiver the split-seconds he requires to make the catch.

This is the gray area in which Moore and safeties of his ilk must exist.

Given this reality, I had to ask Moore a question I’ve asked of other defensive backs before: is the league asking the impossible of its safeties — for them to cover and make plays while throttling back to account for safety?

“Yeah,” Moore replied. “A lot of it is just instincts. It’s like walking across the street and you see a green light, you just go.

“At the end of the day, I mean no harm to nobody and I want to make sure everybody is healthy, because at the end of the day, we’re just human people, but that’s what they bring me in for, to do that. I’ve had certain situations throughout my career before. It’s funny, because afterwards, I pray for the person. It is what it is.”

Moore could go about the play differently — and vastly increase his chance of getting smoked for a big play.

“Being scared of greatness? Not wanting to make a play?” Moore said when asked how he could have gone about the play in another manner. “But you know what? In those types of times in games at (Sports Authority Field at Mile High), having these fans, you have to make plays.

“Trust me, if I had the opportunity, I would have got the ball first. The game revolves around the ball.”

Even the coaches’ message underscored the shades of gray that colored Moore’s hit.

“They just (said), ‘Keep it up, but be smart at the same time,’” Moore recalled. “That’s what they’re looking for. They’re looking for a guy who can come in and patrol the back end.”

It looks like they’ve found one in Moore. And that’s one certainty he’ll readily accept.

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About Andrew Mason

Andrew Mason has covered the NFL since 1999, when he worked as an editor on NFL.com when the site was managed by ESPN.com. He worked six seasons (2002-07) covering the Broncos on their official website and two (2008-09) on the Panthers' site. He began MaxDenver.com in 2010 and now contributes to CBSSports.com, The Sporting News and The New York Times.
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6 Responses

  1. I disagree Andrew. Moore did not launch himself, didn’t leave his feet, and clearly led with his shoulder. Let’s at least keep it factual.

    • Agree to disagree.

      What I saw from the multiple angles and watching it in real time from the press box was pretty clear. He’s left his feet, launches (although he doesn’t get far) and the helmet makes contact to a degree far too great to be strictly leading with the shoulder. I just watched it again and see nothing to change my view of the play. That might not be what you want to hear, but it is what it is. Sorry.

      The biggest question is whether these hits should be illegal in the first place, and whether it’s possible to effectively play safety with the rules that are currently in place.

  2. Andrew,

    I disagree that Moore launched himself. Watching the replay several times, I believe that Moore makes a motion that is more like a shoulder check in hockey than a spearing motion. The timing was off and he hit too high, but it appears the impact of the shoulder to the upper chest as well as the downward momentum of Jones caused his head to careen forward into Moore’s causing the contact.

    In this particular case, it is the vicious hit Jones head takes on the ground that is the most dangerous and it is that type of injury that I believe the NFL is trying to avoid with the defenseless WR rule. If a WR can defend himself, he can tuck his head and prevent the back of it hitting the ground. Therefore, I can agree with the penalty on the field if it’s the defenseless WR call, but not if it’s head to head.

    It wasn’t intentional, but none the less, the Broncos can’t take personal fouls on 3rd and long. Moore will have to learn a better strategy, whatever it is (I don’t think the league would like DBs going low at WRs knees in that situation either).

  3. This game was made specificly for its brutal nature. Otherwise, why wear the padding and helmits? As far as the “new safty rules” i can count about 3 or 4 that were broken on this paricular play but that irrelivant to me. Ya Moore hit him with his helmit and ya he “launched” himself at the reciever. He purposely tryed to take his head off. Heres the point: He should be! Thats what i expect of him, thats what the fans expect of him and, yes, thats what the coaches expect of him too. And he’s in the right for doing so. These guys get payed millions upon millions of dolars and it used to be that the reason they make that kind of money simply for playing a sport is because in this particular sport they have a good chance of getting seriouly injured. The amount of money used to equal the risk involved. But in the last couple of years the comissioner and these panny waists that make the rules have slowly begun to take the reason for the sport and all its fans away from the game. growing up as kids we watched the game specificly to see someone get wiped out just to win the game. It was the definition of heart and it taught us how to lay it on the line for the team, our friends, our family. The game taught us about life that way. If you take away the vicious hits it take the heart the player play with out of it and all your left with is a bunch of over payed divas pushing eachother around over a piece of pigskin. You dont see boxers or UFC fighters being told not to hit their opponent in the face for “safty reasons” or they’ll get fined $20,000 or more depending on how hard they punched them. Two fighters who can only throw body punches is pointless and it would end the sport. Thats how i view this ridiculousness. Ask the old school player. I bet Dick Butkus or Dick Night Train Lane think these new rules are a joke.

    • Rich:

      Yes, you don’t see UFC fighters doing that. You also don’t see UFC fighters wearing helmets, face masks and padding that can be used as weaponry. Other collision sports such as rugby and Australian rules football do not inflict the long-term physical damage that American football does. Perhaps the time has come to consider radical solutions, such as removing face masks or going to headgear like what is used in amateur boxing. If football did that, you wouldn’t have guys leading with their heads, because a self-preservation instinct would kick in.

      Perhaps Butkus and many others of his era would be in better health now if there were rules and conditions in place to more adequately protect the players in the 1960′s.

      Also, you say the game of football was “made specificly (sic) for its brutal nature.” It was also designed to evolve. The game was even more brutal over 100 years ago — in 1905, an estimated 18 players died at all levels of the sport. Some state legislatures and universities banned playing football outright because of its dangers. It was only through the influence of then-President Theodore Roosevelt that the game made revisions (such as the institution of the forward pass) that resuscitated the sport.

      Football is designed to evolve and change — and it must, or a cultural backlash against the long-term damage inflicted by repeated brain trauma will gradually kill off the sport. (Or, to put it simply, if brain-trauma injuries aren’t reduced, how many mothers are going to let their sons go out for football when soccer, basketball, baseball and lacrosse are statistically safer options?)


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