KANSAS CITY, Mo. – A league-wide debate has ensued in recent days over San Francisco 49ers linebacker Ahmad Brooks’ controversial hit on New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
The Week 11 play resulted in a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty, which ultimately cost the 49ers the game and a $15,750 fine to Brooks.
Agree to disagree on that game-changing infraction, but it’s no secret NFL rules have slanted to the offensive side of the ball in recent years. And some Chiefs defensive players are cognizant of the league’s regulations designed to safeguard quarterbacks.
“You have to be aware, be conscious of how you’re going to hit those guys,” outside linebacker Tamba Hali said. “Those guys are defenseless. The game isn’t meant for us to go hurt them. We have to just get the guy down.”
The Chiefs aren’t strangers to getting to the opposing quarterback, as Kansas City’s 36 sacks are currently second in the league.
For his part, Hali’s nine sacks ties for fifth-most in the NFL, while teammate and fellow outside linebacker Justin Houston ranks third with 11.
Sacking a quarterback often results in a hard tackle and if a defender isn’t careful, a flag along with the hit.
It’s a violent game, after all.
Still, considering the havoc the Chiefs have caused in the opponent’s backfield this season, the Chiefs have only been flagged once for roughing the passer, which came in Week Nine against the Buffalo Bills.
But despite the team’s success of not getting penalized, rookie defensive end Mike Catapano said the league rules that protect signal callers impact a player’s mindset when rushing the quarterback.
“It’s tough because you want to play fast and you want to try and get there,” Catapano said. “It takes every ounce of energy that you got going 1,000 mph to actually get close to him. So it’s hard to kind of choke it off and to have complete control of your body where you’re not going to hit him in a certain area. It’s hard.”
Catapano, who has one sack on the season, adds he’d like to see the league find a middle ground given the speed of the game.
“We don’t want guys getting hurt, we understand the reasons,” Catapano said of the rules. “But there has to be a happy medium where players can play fast and it’s not extravagant where people are getting fined for touching somebody. There’s got to be a happy medium to be found somewhere.”
Defensive back Quintin Demps, a sixth-year pro, emphatically agreed.
“We’re not against it, we understand the purpose of it,” Demps said of the rules. “But at some point you got to be able to compromise with us knowing every flag is not a fine.
“Just because you get hit hard, it’s not a fine,” he continued. “They’re just seeing a big hit and throwing the flag and it’s unfair, and then you have to pay a fine a lot of time. It’s just not right.”
The Chiefs, who have two personal foul penalties on the season, haven’t been fined for a bone-jarring hit entering Week 12. And the team has played within the rules when it comes to rushing and tackling quarterbacks.
A part of that could be a result of how the Chiefs practice, where Catapano said the coaches are quick to voice displeasure if the defenders are within striking distance of the signal callers.
“If we get close to them during practice, we get yelled at,” Catapano said. “He’s got to have his area, we choke it down.”
Ultimately, Hali said the current NFL guidance on player safety and protection of quarterbacks teaches players to function under control.
“Sure, you want to get some hits on the quarterback, but we also got to keep in mind the rules,” Hali said. “We’re not out there to hurt the guy. You don’t want to hit the guy in a way where you can get fined or it can be a penalty because of the way you’re hitting him.”
While Hali acknowledges a sense of gratification when sacking a quarterback, the two-time Pro Bowler said the opposing player’s health must always be a priority.
“The goal is just to get to the quarterback, get the ball out of hands, bring him down, not to hurt him,” Hali said. “He is defenseless when he’s standing there, and if you get a clean shot you could hurt him for the rest of his life.”
Notes: Special teams coordinator Dave Toub said the field position and the fact the Denver Broncos had a returner in the game factored heavily in the team’s decision to not have kicker Ryan Succop attempt a 64-yard field goal before the end of the first half of last week’s game … The Chiefs have one sack in the last three games, but defensive coordinator Bob Sutton didn’t appear concerned … “We have enough things in the cupboard that hopefully they can’t get them all,” Sutton responded when asked if opponents have figured out how to stop the pass rush … Offensive coordinator Doug Pederson chuckled when asked if the team would consider using defensive tackle Dontari Poe in goal-line packages … “I guess, we haven’t really thought about it,” Pederson said. “I’m sure that could definitely pop up.”