ATLANTA (CBS Atlanta/AP) — Atlanta Falcons tight end Tony Gonzalez would rather take a hit to the head than his knees.
Speaking to USA TODAY Sports following the season-ending knee injury Miami Dolphins tight end Dustin Keller suffered in a preseason game, Gonzalez said it’s not right for defensive players to go after someone’s knees.
“It should be a fineable [sic] offense. That’s just not part of football — hitting a defenseless player in his knee, that’s something we all dread as players. That’s my nightmare,” Gonzalez said.
The Pro Bowler continued: “I’d rather have a guy hit my head than knife at my knee. You’re talking about a career-ending injury.”
Keller tore several knee ligaments in Saturday’s game against the Houston Texans after taking a hit in the knee from the helmet of tackler D.J. Swearinger, a rookie safety. The play was legal, and Swearinger said he went low because tackling high can lead to a fine.
Gonzalez didn’t buy Swearinger’s explanation.
“I saw his (Swearinger’s) remark, ‘That’s just football,’ and he showed a little bit of grief for the guy – I’m not buying it at all,” Gonzalez told USA TODAY Sports. “Don’t tell me that the rules prohibit you from hitting a guy up top. You have a whole target area above his knee up to his neck that you can hit. I’ve watched that play a bunch of times.”
Gonzalez’s comments come as the NFL is cracking down on blows to the head during games.
Several former NFL stars have been diagnosed with the chronic traumatic encephalopathy — a destructive brain disease linked with head blows — after death in recent years, including Junior Seau, Dave Duerson and Ray Easterling, who all had troubling symptoms and committed suicide.
Thousands of former players have sued the NFL, claiming the league withheld information about damaging effects of repeated head blows and concussions.
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