A season ago, Joe Flacco was on the receiving end of one of the most brutal hits of 2017 when Dolphins linebacker Kiko Alsono did this:

But Flacco, who is now in his 11th season, understands that football is, by nature, a dangerous sport even as the league tries to protect quarterbacks now more than ever. That commitment to safety has been made crystal clear over the first two weeks; take what appears to be this Clay Matthews sack against Kirk Cousins last Sunday.

Turns out, that's illegal and the NFL plans to use the play as a teaching tool for how not to bring down the quarterback.

Things have gotten so far off the rails that Flacco actually feels bad for the pass rushers.

"It's a violent sport. It's meant to be that way," Flacco said Wednesday, via ESPN.com's Jamison Hensley. "I definitely have feelings for those guys over there because not only are they penalizing people and affecting outcomes of games but they're also taking paychecks away from people and they're acting like it's no big deal. But it is a big deal. That's a lot of money for anybody. So, there's a lot of issues with it, I think."

What did Flacco think of Matthews' hit on Cousins?

"This is football, man," Flacco said. "We all sign up to get hit. We all sign up where you might get hurt. That's what makes this league a little bit different than any other in professional sports."

Worth noting: Even Cousins said it was "probably a generous call," adding that "two or three years ago, it probably doesn't get flagged."

Not surprisingly, Matthews was slightly more animated when talking about the penalty.

"I have so many emotions running through as far as what a terrible call it was," Matthews said Sunday after the game. "At the same time, I don't know what else to do. I don't know. You let me know. You tell me. Did I put pressure on him? I thought I hit him within his waist to chest, I got my head across, put my hands down. To call it at that point in the game is unbelievable."

Flacco feels your pain but the NFL is adamant that picking up the quarterback and driving him into the ground -- the league calls it "burping" -- will not be tolerated. Even though, you know, that's not what Matthews did to Cousins.