- John Keim, ESPN Staff Writer
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ASHBURN, Va. -- Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather won his appeal Wednesday. But there is no real victory for him. And the Redskins still will be without their best safety while playing one of the best quarterbacks in NFL history Sunday in Denver.
It wasn’t surprising that the suspension was reduced; when he was given two games, the general feeling was this would happen. This way, he still gets a suspension, and the league gets to make a point. But if they really wanted to make a strong point, why not keep it at two games for a player with Meriweather’s history? Maybe they should explain this ruling.
Still, in the past, other suspensions were reduced from one game to none. The league has officially put Meriweather on notice, however. With 10 games left, no one should be confident that this won’t happen again. Or that he’s learned how to alter his game enough to survive without another issue. Every time he goes to deliver a blow, every time a pass is thrown into his area of the field, there will be two concerns: Will he make the play? And will it result in a suspension? It’s a tough way to live for a safety.
“We have to play fast,” Redskins cornerback DeAngelo Hall said. “If you hit somebody in the wrong part of the body, you have to deal with that after the fact. But we can’t pull up on a guy and not make a play and risk a touchdown or risk our team losing because we’re thinking about what might happen.”
Meriweather’s teammates defended him Wednesday, as you would expect. He’s come across well in interviews since he came to Washington, but that doesn’t mean a whole lot when it comes to on-field issues.
Truth be told, it’s sometimes difficult to tell what’s legal and what isn’t. For a player who built his game around intimidating receivers, it will always be difficult to know. Which means he’ll now always be one hit away from another suspension, one you would expect to be longer -- and this time, it won't be reduced on appeal.
“I think they’re trying to be safe, and I think the only way to be safe is to do what they’re doing,” Meriweather said after Sunday’s game against the Chicago Bears, in which he drew two personal fouls. “But at the same time, this is tackle football. A job of a safety is to instill fear, and you can’t do that with pulling up.”
No, you can’t.
“He’s not a dirty guy,” Redskins corner Josh Wilson said of Meriweather. “You wouldn’t call Steve Atwater or Ronnie Lott or John Lynch dirty guys. Those guys played football, and that’s what we grew up watching.”
But that’s not what the league wants anymore, not to the same degree. Meriweather hasn’t quite learned that lesson. He’s not the only player who must adjust to the new rules or alter his game. He’s not the only safety who wants to intimidate. Others have adjusted, and now Meriweather must as well. If he doesn’t, there will be no victories in his future.