Roughing the passer penalties have shot up dramatically this season, and Cam Wake isn’t happy about it.
The Dolphins Pro Bowl defensive end lashed out at the NFL on Friday, suggesting they value the health of quarterbacks more than the health of other players, and that it shouldn’t be that way.
“Everybody knows the league is concerned about player safety, [but] it just depends on what player,” Wake said Friday. “If it’s players’ safety, everybody should be safe, not just certain players. It should be everyone… Now I’m supposed to sacrifice myself in order to protect [the quarterback]?”
Wake was just getting started.
“My knees mean just as much to my family and my ability to play and provide as [Dolphins quarterback Ryan] Tannehill’s does,” he said. “I can’t understand that his are more important than mine.”
What also irks Wake is his belief that the league is being dishonest about it.
“Don’t piss on me and tell me it’s raining. Just tell me you want to protect quarterbacks…. It’s silly to say we care about all players. You don’t care about my safety.”
Officials have called 34 roughing the passer penalties this season, which is more than twice the total in the first three weeks of last season.
That is the result mostly of the NFL’s new emphasis on a 1995 rule requiring defensive players to minimize the amount of body weight they put on the quarterback. In order to avoid a penalty, Dolphins defensive end William Hayes contorted his body in a way that resulted in him tearing an ACL in his knee during Sunday’s game against Oakland.
Wake said he would not change his approach because of the rule.
“It’s silly if a quarterback is running the ball to have the rules change,” he said. “…. If you’re a running back, you can do anything you want [to him]. But if you’re a quarterback, you’ve got to stop doing certain things [to him]. It’s not fair, but life isn’t fair…. From the day I touched the field, it was to punish whoever had the ball, quarterbacks included. But now that’s not part of the game. You can assist him to the ground. The running backs! You can destroy him, the receivers, you can destroy them too.”
Asked if football can be made safer, he said: “It’s an uphill battle. The crowd likes the violence. You see big hits, the oohs and aahs. They like that. How do you make a violent sport non-violent?”
Asked if the league should even try to make the game safer beyond uniform adjustments, Wake said: “That goes to the fan base. The human body is not made for big hits; I can guarantee you that. You take two human beings and smash them into each other, something is going to give. That’s unsafe. If fans don’t want to see big hits, sure, you could make it a very different game.”
Asked if there should be a union to protect the interest of defensive players, he said: “That would be great. But name someone who would agree with you that’s not a defensive player. How many defensive players would you need to trump a quarterback as an owner? I get chipped, cut, hit in the head, it doesn’t matter [to the league]. But the quarterback? Don’t hit him too early, don’t hit him too late, don’t land on him.”
In the wake of two controversial late-hit penalties against Green Bay’s Clay Matthews, Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a statement that the competition committee determined it would not change the roughing rule or change it as as a point of emphasis.
But to ensure consistency in officiating the rule, the committee this week clarified techniques that constitute a foul.
Vincent said “video feedback will continue to be be provided throughout the season to coaches, players and officials illustrating clear examples of permissible and impermissible contact on the quarterback.”