Word is, safety Brandon Meriweather is a Bear because Bill Belichick believes he freelances too much on the field. It also has been said that Meriweather piles up hangers-on the way he piles up interceptions, perhaps to the point that his posse has a depth chart.
Maybe, maybe not. But whatever Meriweather’s discipline issues on and off the field, this has been characterized as a low-risk acquisition by the Bears. Again, maybe, maybe not. It’s a low-cost acquisition, and especially a bargain with the inexperience of Major Wright and injuries to backups Craig Steltz and Chris Conte. But it’s a high-risk acquisition if Meriweather gambles on a play against Green Bay and gets beat deep for the winning touchdown the way every Bears safety seems to.
Lovie Smith bases his entire defensive scheme. Smith also loves hitters because they can make receivers, um, less courageous across the middle, and that also leads to takeaways. Sounds perfect, right?
Not so fast. I have this thought about Meriweather’s play and a potential reason Belichick cut him. Not THE reason, maybe. But potentially something that will resound:
Everybody with a reputation as a “hitter’’ will be hit with a lot of yellow flags this season.
Remember, this is the season the NFL makes a monumental effort to protect players, real or contrived. Truth is, the NFL doesn’t want to eliminate violent collisions anymore than you or I want them eliminated because that is what made football football. But concussion research, brain damage and suicide argue powerfully for player safety measures.
So, the NFL scribbled down a bunch of new no-nos, and near the top was no more leaving your feet to hit someone. Exhibit A was the flying hit by that Venable kid in the Bears’ last exhibition game. He left his feet to deliver a standard football play from a standard defensive player, especially a safety. And everybody from the 20th row down threw a flag.
I know it’s easy to pick on a kid, but this was the act of a “hitter,’’ something the league wants to wipe out, and I think we know how far the league will go to make sure people get the message. See the NFL’s willingness to embarrass itself on Calvin Johnson’s non-touchdown touchdown in last year’s opener
It’s entirely possible Belichick is a bit ahead of the curve here in expecting tackling and positional discipline to become a greater factor now that the NFL’s safety police have mobilized. It just might be that Belichick realized the takeaways that a Meriweather gets won’t be worth the 15-yard penalties he draws. The guy plays a big game. The NFL is trying to penalize big games out of existence. Connect the dots, people.
Or maybe Belichick just lost his mind as part of losing his mojo in not winning a Super Bowl since Chad Hutchison was Lovie’s quarterback.