ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The debate over the NFL’s rules regarding hits on defenseless receivers won’t stop with the league’s decision to fine Broncos rookie safety Rahim Moore.
Moore was fined by the league for his hit on Bills receiver Donald Jones during the second quarter of Saturday’s game. Per the replay angles offered, Jones qualified as the league-defined “defenseless receiver” who has been deemed worthy of protection via the rules, and the helmets of Moore and Jones appeared to make contact.
There didn’t appear to be malicious intent, but that doesn’t matter to the NFL anymore.
“I didn’t think (Moore) launched. I thought he went in and tried to lead with his shoulder like the league is asking us to do,” Broncos defensive coordinator Dennis Allen said. “It was just unfortunate like on some of those plays, the receiver comes down and sometimes you get them a little high.”
It’s unlikely these rules will change back to their previous form; if anything, the desire for safety in the sport means that the restrictions will continue to grow. As a rookie, Moore is only beginning to understand this.
Fortunately for him, Brian Dawkins and Allen already do. Both are enthused about Moore’s aggression, but pragmatic enough to know that he can’t simply hit receivers as he did on Saturday. To do so would jeopardize Moore’s professional existence, turning it into a money-losing proposition through fines and suspension.
Their advice to Moore? Get lower.
“I think we’ve got to all understand that player safety is at a premium and the NFL is really cracking down on that and so we’ve got to understand that the strike zone has got to be a little lower,” Allen said.
“Continue to play your game, just lower your target a little bit and play football,” Dawkins said.
Getting in line with league guidelines doesn’t require an overhaul; just a tweak and an acceptance that even then, sometimes the hits are going to cross the line.
“I love his aggressiveness, I love the way that he went after it, but we’ve got to be smart about where we’re hitting guys,” Allen said.
“Those things are going to happen from time to time,” Dawkins added. “He knows. I’ve already told him that I got hit with a $50,000 fine for that same type of a hit, running full speed. It’s one thing to have to play in slow motion and hit somebody; it’s another thing to run full speed and hit somebody who’s a moving target that’s going to duck at some point.
“You’ve got to play your game and make your decisions as you go.”
But full speed doesn’t offer time for thoughtful decisions. Moore’s decision must be instinctual, and therein lies the challenge of what he faces: to change his instinct.