Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs Agree:  NFL Rules on Hitting QBs Are Too Soft


It's not too often that you see quarterbacks and pass rushers agree on how hard a quarterback can be hit within the rules. Pass rushers like hitting. Quarterbacks don't like being hit.

In Baltimore, however, Joe Flacco and Terrell Suggs are of the same belief: the NFL's rules on quarterback hits are too soft.

Asked Wednesday whether he has any empathy for pass rushers who are being penalized for seemingly routine hits on quarterbacks these days, Flacco said he does.

"Listen, this is football, man. We all sign up to get hit. We all sign up [knowing] you might get hurt," Flacco said. "It's a violent sport. It's meant to be that way."

Flacco has long stated that he believes part of the game's popularity is the gladiator aspect of it. Every time a player takes the field, they're putting their career on the line because there's a possibility of a serious injury. He said that's "part of what makes it interesting to watch."

Flacco had one of the NFL's longest streaks of consecutive starts before his ACL tear in 2015. He hasn't missed one since, and last year gritted through a herniated disc during the first half of the season. He's a tough dude, and he doesn't think quarterbacks should be shown preferential treatment.

There were 15 roughing the passer calls in Week 1 in the NFL – the second-most in league history for one week. In Week 2, the NFL world exploded when a seemingly normal hard hit by Green Bay Packers pass rusher Clay Matthews on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins was flagged.

The league not only believes it was the right call, but will be using it as a teaching tape to others about the rules. They say this because Matthews "scooped" Cousins' right leg as he went down, which affects the angle (and severity) of the quarterback's fall.

Packers legend Brett Favre called it a "textbook hit." Flacco, who said that playing in the rough-and-tumble AFC North has given him a certain edge, would seem to agree.

"I definitely have [empathy] for those [defenders] over there, because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games, but they're also taking paychecks away from people and acting like it's no big deal. Well it is a big deal. It's a lot of money for anybody," Flacco said.

"There's a lot of issues with it, I think."

Ravens outside linebacker Matthew Judon was flagged for a roughing the passer penalty last Thursday night when he shoved Bengals quarterback Andy Dalton to the ground soon after he threw a pass. On Wednesday, Judon and Terrell Suggs spoke out.

"I was told to be political, so you have to gently lay a guy down," Suggs said. "Just gently lay them down, caress them and all of that. It's our game today."

Suggs said the NFL has changed "tremendously" since he entered the league in 2003. He said it's not going to change the way he plays.

In his third season, Judon didn't seem as bothered, saying, "You just kind of have to watch how you hit them. You've got to know the rules."

Like Judon, Head Coach John Harbaugh pointed to how Ravens players are taught to abide by the rules.

"I think the biggest thing that we try to teach our guys is that we're not so much hitting the quarterback as we're tackling the quarterback," Harbaugh said.

"When you tackle a guy, you're not going to lift him up and dump him on the ground. You're not going to drive your body into the guy and try to create an injury. That's the type of thing that you're trying to get out of there with the quarterback, because he's not protected."

Unlike some other NFL quarterbacks, Flacco doesn't look to referees for flags after he takes hits. Most often, he gets up, brushes himself off and goes about his business.

"I don't have time to worry about whether they're going to [throw] a flag [for] me or not," Flacco said. "That's what my family is up in the stands is for."

While he didn't have his finest game, Flacco showed his toughness a few times at critical junctures during Thursday night's loss in Cincinnati.

Near the end of the first half, he shrugged off unblocked defensive end Carlos Dunlap near the goal line to find tight end Mark Andrews for a 1-yard touchdown. As the Ravens clawed back in the third quarter, Flacco hung in the pocket with Bengals defensive tackle Geno Atkins and others all around him and found tight end Nick Boyle for a 17-yard gain.

"Listen, quarterbacks are the least tough guys on the field," Flacco said. "So, when you are given your chance twice a game, you better stand in there and make the throw."

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