Gallery’s Block on Bunkley Brings New Life to an Old Controversy

Kevin Vickerson

VICKERSON: ... Gallery's hit "wasn't called for, especially in preseason."

DENVER – Beneath the veneer of happiness over their second preseason win, some Broncos were seething after the 23-20 win over the Seattle Seahawks.

The object of their venom was Seahawks left guard Robert Gallery, whose cut block on Brodrick Bunkley took the Broncos’ starting nose tackle out of the game, leaving the Broncos compromised at a position where they have already lost two of their top four players.

Bunkley was walking in the locker room and said he’d be “alright,” but that didn’t stop fellow starting defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson from fuming over the play.

“When you’re doing chop blocks you’re not keeping us safe. That’s what really ticked me off,” said Broncos defensive tackle Kevin Vickerson. “That’s something uncalled for. That wasn’t cool.”

Middle linebacker Joe Mays was also upset, but pragmatic.

“Yeah, it’s kind of sad that it happened, but that’s the game of football for you,” Mays said. “You have some may say cheap shots and you have some that it may be on the borderline.”

Technically, Gallery’s block wasn’t a chop block; there wasn’t another offensive player involved. Further, Bunkley did not have his back turned to Gallery; the block was legal, by the definition of the rules.

“Look at the rule book; it’s a completely legal block to me and the ref even said that,” Gallery said after the game. “It’s football and I’d do it again.  I don’t like that (Bunkley) got hurt, but that was was a completely legal block and I’d do it 100 times again. I feel bad he got hurt, but that’s football.”

Whether it’s ethical football remains a matter of debate.

For over a decade during the Mike Shanahan era, the Broncos were known — and reviled around the league — for cut-blocking. The technique was espoused by longtime offensive-line coach Alex Gibbs, who incorporated it into his overall zone-blocking teachings.

Perhaps not coincidentally, Gibbs’s last NFL stop was with the Seattle Seahawks as Pete Carroll’s offensive line coach for several months in 2010. Gibbs retired days before the start of the 2010 regular season, but some tenets of his philosophy remain nearly a year later.

Vickerson was with the Seahawks during the 2010 offseason and preseason, which coincided with nearly all of Gibbs’s Seattle tenure.

“It was just something that wasn’t called for, especially in preseason, with the ball going away,” Vickerson said. “I understand he (Gallery) is doing his job too. But at the same time you want to protect players.”

Vickerson said he and Gallery have “a history,” dating back to when the two played in the Big Ten eight years ago. Vickerson attended Michigan State, while Gallery played for conference rival Iowa.

“I had to get after him a little bit,” Vickerson said.

A few minutes later, the Seahawks were called for chop-blocking on a third-down Tarvaris Jackson pass attempt. The penalty was declined because the Broncos managed to bat down the pass in spite of the infraction.

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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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