Arkush: Brandon Marshall needs to aim higher

Chicago Bears' Brandon Marshall is tackled near the end zone during the second quarter of Thursday's game against the New York Giants October 10, 2013 at Soldier Field in Chicago. (Sarah Nader - snader@shawmedia.com)

Brandon Meriweather’s response – “I feel like people who beat their girlfriends should be kicked out of the league, too” - to Brandon Marshall’s suggestion he should be banned from the game for repeated headhunting was mean-spirited, vindictive and out of context as it related to Marshall’s verbal slap at him. Marshall was talking business and Meriweather went personal.

Whether the comment was inappropriate or not is in the eye and ear of the beholder.

I admire the way Marshall is clearly working to change his life. And there is no evidence of any reoccurrences of past issues since he arrived in Chicago. Whether he ever can, or should be, forgiven for what happened in his past is again a matter of individual perspective and conscience.

Minimally, because his past is his past, Marshall needs to be a little smarter before putting himself in the crosshairs like this again.

Obviously, Meriweather didn’t like Marshall coming after him. So he did what the NFL is telling him to do to fix his other, bigger problem. He went low. And therein lies the much bigger story.

Meriweather has been fined over $230,000 in at least six different instances for delivering blows to players’ heads. He is clearly a headhunter. Without significant change, there's no future for him in the game and it is quite possible the NFL would be better off without him.

But that does not give his fellow players or the media license to accuse him of things he is not guilty of, and maybe the league would be a little better off if it did listen to some of the things he says.

"I guess I’ve just got to take people’s knees out," Meriweather said during a news conference Monday, in response to his one-game suspension. "That’s the only way…I’d hate to end a guy’s career, you know, over a rule. But I guess it’s better other people than me getting suspended for longer.

"To be honest, man, you’ve just got to go low now. You’ve got to end people’s careers, you know. You’ve got to tear people’s ACLs and mess up people’s knees now. You can’t hit them high no more. You’ve just got to go low."

Headlines across the country Monday night and Tuesday morning screamed, “Meriweather aims to ruin foes’ knees and end their careers,” or other accusations to that effect, which is clearly not what the man said.

Meriweather correctly states that if he can’t go high, the league wants him to go low. And the residual effects of that will be to hurt players’ knees and jeopardize their careers. He even says, if you quote him accurately, “I’d hate to end a guy’s career.”

The bottom line is that the league has a crisis of its own making and Meriweather is the poster boy everyone’s trying to use as a scapegoat. If players can’t hit above the shoulders, the only way to be sure they make plays is to go low. That is going to put knees at risk.

It is clear where the league is headed is to create a strike zone above the knees and below the chest which may or may not be safer – who knows what damage it will do to groins, kidneys, livers, spleens, etc. – but will most assuredly make playing defense at full speed near impossible.

Let’s boil this down to the base common denominator. Meriweather's actions might not be right, but it’s the folks who run the NFL and make rules that protect the head but endanger other parts of the body who may be ruining the game and really endangering its players.

The fact is there may not be an answer to the NFL owners’ billions of dollars in potential liability to its players and, as a result, the future of the game may be bleak. But the answer certainly isn’t to move the danger to another part of the body and pretend Meriweather is the problem.

• Hub Arkush covers the Bears for Shaw Media and HubArkush.com. Write to him a harkush@shawmedia.com.

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