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.