For veterans guranteed a roster spot, the NFL preseason is a month-long minefield. Getting back into game shape is nice, but the biggest concern is avoiding injuries in otherwise meaningless affairs. This was no doubt racing through the mind of Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams after he was on the receiving end of a low block from 49ers guard Joe Looney.
It happened early in the third quarter of Sunday's Week 3 preseason game and you can see it here. Screenshots are below:
Not surprisingly, Williams wasn't happy about how the play unfolded.
"I feel all right," the veteran defensive tackle said, via the Pioneer-Press. "Don't really know what's wrong, but I think I'm fine. I was just upset that I'm getting cut like that 11 years in from a guy I don't even know who the guy is. Between the pain and the fact that no one was looking it was terrible."
Williams' teammate Jared Allen added, "From what I understand, it was a dirty play. It sucks."
Luckily, Williams avoided a major injury. Via USAToday.com, Coach Leslie Frazier said Monday that an MRI revealed a "significant" bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain, but Williams "was fortunate in that there was no injury to any of his ligaments."
One of the new rules for the 2013 season is that peel-back blocks are now illegal anywhere on the field. Prior to the rule change, these blocks were illegal only in the tackle box, which is why Jets' guard Matt Slausen wasn't penalized last season when he blew out the knee of Texans linebacker Brian Cushing.
(What, exactly, is a peel-back block? Here's the definition, via PFT: A player cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if: (a) the blocker is moving toward his own end line; and (b) he approached the opponent from behind or from the side.)
NBC color analyst Cris Collinsworth alluded to this during Sunday's telecast.
"Joe Looney goes low for no apparent reason," Collinsworth said while watching a replay of the hit on Williams. "That's the dangers of playing the starters against backups. Sometimes they feel like they have to do a little extra just to compete. ... We've got that new rule this year about those peel-back blocks," Collinsworth continued. "When you're going back towards the defense's end zone, you're not allowed to block low. Of course, Brian Cushing sustained that injury last year and they're not going to allow that anymore. I'm not sure (Looney's block) fit into that category though."
ESPN.com's Mike Sando points out that Looney hit Williams from the front -- not the side -- but Williams didn't see it coming because he was looking in the backfield.
"The guys upstairs [Vikings coaches] were telling me that was one of those where we will probably want to send it into the league, so I'm looking forward to seeing it," Vikings coach Leslie Frazier said after the game, via Sando. "They were pretty upset when they saw it. I've got to take a look at it."
So was it an illegal block by Looney? Not according to the rules. Was it excessive? Absolutely.
"I didn't try to take a dirty cheap shot at him," Looney said, according to CSNBayArea.com. "I was just trying to finish my block. I meant no harm by the block at all."
"I tried to find him after the game to apologize, to let him know I'm not that kind of player who's trying to hurt guys and maliciously take violent hits at people" Looney continued. "I've been injured myself. I know what it's like."
It will be interesting to see what -- if anything -- the league says on the matter. If Looney's hit wasn't illegal, he can't be fined (see D.J. Swearinger and Dustin Keller). Then again, the NFL docked Bears linebacker John Bostic $21,000 for … well, we still have no idea. Put another way: There isn't much the league could do that would surprise us.