Hit that Injured Packers WR Randall Cobb wasn’t Dirty

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Packers WR Randall Cobb was injured in Sunday’s win over the Ravens and will likely miss 6-8 weeks.

It sounds like Packers WR Randall Cobb fractured his fibula on this hit from Ravens S Matt Elam and will miss 6-8 weeks.

As Cobb withered on the ground, Packers QB Aaron Rodgers raced to the scene and expressed his displeasure with Elam for striking one of his favorite targets low. After the game, Rodgers had this to say:

“I just thought from my vantage point, he had plenty of time to not take out a guy’s legs in that situation. I thought he could have hit in the proper hitting zone and that’s what I told him.”

It’s good to see the former MVP all fired up, but his ire is misfocused in this situation. The hit that Elam laid on Cobb wasn’t dirty.

Elam, a rookie, is listed at 5-foot-10, 206 pounds. Cobb, in his third year and known for being fearless inside and dangerous after the catch, is listed at 5-foot-10, 192 pounds.

This wasn’t a linebacker lining up a defenseless and diminutive wide receiver. This was a rookie defensive back trying to stop a legit NFL playmaker. From a very young age, football players are taught to get low when tackling. It’s a lot easier to bring down a guy roughly your size or bigger if you go at him low instead of high.

Leverage wasn’t the only reason for Elam to go low in that situation. There’s also the issue of a blow-to-the-head penalty and fine. If Elam hits Cobb high and there’s even the slightest appearance that a blow to the helmet area occurred, it’s 15 yards extra yards an automatic first down for the Packers. Not only was Elam making a logical decision to tackle Cobb low on the play, he was also taking the necessary precaution to avoid a blow-to-the-head personal foul that would’ve hurt his team, and a possible fine that would have shrunk his bank account.

To Rodgers’ point about having plenty of time to hit Cobb in the “proper hitting zone”: Since when are a wide receiver’s legs not part of the proper hitting zone? It’s fine to hit a player with the ball low as long as it’s not the quarterback while he’s in the pocket. It’s unfair to ask Elam to decide in a fraction of a second that he should aim higher, but not too high.

By the time he decides to not go low and sets his sights somewhere on Cobb’s torso, Cobb would likely be skipping into the end zone and Elam’s coaches would chew him out for not being aggressive or decisive enough.

And if Elam does square up and nail Cobb in the chest area, who’s to say the impact wouldn’t have cracked one of Cobb’s ribs? This is football. Unfortunately, injuries happen in football. Every play where a player gets injured isn’t necessarily a dirty play.

I admire Rodgers’ passion and his dedication to his teammate in this situation, but he’s wrong on this one. It wasn’t a dirty hit, or even a questionable hit. By confronting Elam, Rodgers forced T.J. Lang to intervene and Lang got flagged for a 15-yard personal foul. Mason Crosby missed a 44-yard field goal on the following play.

It sure would’ve been nice to have those extra 15 yards for Crosby to work with. Rodgers wasn’t happy when Mike McCarthy mistakenly threw a challenge flag against the Vikings last season. He shouldn’t be happy with himself after his actions led to a 15-yard penalty and contributed to a blown field goal.

In the end, the Packers won the game and now have to move on without Cobb for a while. Plays like this make for interesting discussions in the aftermath of a tough game, but as the season rolls on, this moment will be lumped in with all the other ups and downs that occur throughout 16 regular season games and (hopefully) who knows how many playoff contests.

The Packers can help us all forget about it by regrouping without Cobb and putting themselves in a good position to make a run once No. 18 returns.


Adam Czech is a a freelance sports reporter living in the Twin Cities and a proud supporter of American corn farmers. When not working, Adam is usually writing about, thinking about or worrying about the Packers. Follow Adam on Twitter. Twitter .


  • Savage57

    The blogosphere has been rife with indignation over the hit, and there wasn’t a thing wrong with it.

    To think that if within the fractional timeframe of Elam’s reaction and then assume that Elam had the mental processing speed to actually aim for a specific area of Cobb with the intent of injuring stretches reason. Yeah, it sucks to see one of our aces go down, but sometimes $h!t happens. When are we as a culture going to accept that in life, let alone within the mayhem and chaos that is the NFL.

    If Elam’s nugget is really that good, he needs to be at the NSA, not the NFL.

  • Hank Scorpio

    The real problem is the head-down launch Elam did that hit Cobb square in the knee before Cobb had a chance to protect himself. That’s cheap, dirty football. True it is legal. For now. I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see the NFL add the knees on down to the “defenseless receiver” rule in the near future.

    Aside from the danger to both players, it is piss poor fundamentals that leads to missed tackles. I know the NFL would love to put a stop to it. Since defensive coaches seem unwilling, I think the competition is going to continue to further define the rules in an effort to stop it.

    And to pre-emptively answer the “what is a defender supposed to do” nonsense, the answer is simple: Keep your head up and drive through the torso of a defender. IOWs, tackle like you’re supposed to tackle. The game is violent enough if it is played right.

  • larry valdes

    This guy elan did the same hit on dustin keller and Brock the knee completely hope he gets sooner than later.

  • http://Packerken.blogspot.com Packerken

    I came her to disagree and see that Hank Scorpio said everything that I had planned to. To me it all comes down to seeing what you hit. That and actually wrapping up. Sure would be nice if people would wrap up every once in a while.

  • marpag

    I agree with the author. While the injury was unfortunate, I can’t find fault with the hit. It happens. I’m not even completely sure that the hit was “directly on the knee” like everyone is saying.

    Having said that, I also agree with “Hank” that Elam showed terrible fundamentals with his tackle. But there is a difference between being a poor tackler and being a dirty player. If there weren’t, Jerron McMillian would be the dirtiest player on earth.

    • Hank Scorpio

      Here is the hit from 2 angles. People can judge for themselves where Elam hit Cobb.



      Since when is diving at a players knee not dirty?

      • marpag

        Thanks for the pics. Looks like it was closer to the knee than I thought.

        To your question, “Since when is diving at a players knee not dirty?” I would answer: “Since football was invented.”

        And let’s remember. The knee itself is not injured. It’s a fractured fibula.

      • Mojo

        The angle you view a still picture can greatly distort what is going on. Instead look at this NFL recap at around the 35 to 45 second area. http://www.nfl.com/videos/nfl-game-highlights/0ap2000000261684/Week-6-Packers-vs-Ravens-highlights
        (Don’t expand the screen to full-view or much of the hit will be obscured, at least it was on my browser)

        Note in the slo-mo replay you can clearly see Elam hit Cobb – with either his side or his back(not the helmet. In fact his helmet might not touch Cobb at all throughout the tackle). Most of Elam’s contact with Cobb comes at the thigh – not the knee, which explains why Cobbs knee was not shattered. Regardless it was a legal and clean hit. He was making a play on the actual ball-carrier. Sapp’s hit on Cliffy years ago was legal but dirty.

        I do hope when a Packer does the same as Elam in the future, I hope we hold him accountable. I could probably go back and find dozens of examples, but I don’t want to bother. Just know – Elams hit was legal and practiced all the time on both sides of the ball. If you don’t like that players can do this – then that’s a different issue all together.

  • Adam Czech

    Wrapping up? Did you see how fast Cobb was moving? Ain’t no wrapping up on that play. A blast with the shoulder, high or low, was the best option.

    Fair point on keeping the head up. But this wasn’t a form tackling drill. It was real life. Elam did what he had to do.

    • Hank Scorpio

      I think if we continue to see hits like this, and weak defenses of them, the competition committee will do what they have to do.

      • Dhazer

        They are turning this into flag football already, but heck think of it this way. Why are these guys getting paid millions and millions of dollars to play a guy we would all love to do, it is because most players careers are like 5-7 years and then they are done. These players know what they are getting into when they sign the contract. Good thing football was football at one time so we actually saw what real men looked like playing the game.

        • funcrusher

          It’s not about babying the players, it’s about keeping the games competitive and fun to watch. If you want to allow cheap hits to the head and knees, all the defenses are going to focus on is knocking out star players. Do you want to watch a games filled with third string quarterbacks and former XFL players, because that’s what you’re going to have? This isn’t the 1960’s. Players are too big, fast and strong now.

        • Ed Schoenfeld

          If you watch video of a Lombardi team you will not see headhunting or kneecrashing. You will see proper form tackling with the head up and the strike zone below the shoulders and above the knees.

          Good thing Football was Football at one time so we actually saw what real men looked like playing the game.

          • funcrusher

            Don’t start that “back in my day…” crap and act like those players didn’t take cheap shots. All those “men” you’re referring to, just sued the league for all the blows to the head they took.

            Form tackling IS the answer. It just needs to be enforced better.

  • Adam Czech

    Indeed they probably will. Flag football for everyone.

  • BrianURN

    If you want to blame someone for Cobb’s injury, blame the NFL. They’re the ones passing out fines for hits at waist level that end up helmet to helmet when the receiver gets low. These injuries are their fault for lowering the aiming point (their words). That rule is garbage, and the Nfl needs to revoke it.

    • packett

      I don’t buy that argument that you go for knees to avoid hitting the head, even though a lot has been said even by announcers. Rubbish. A shot to the knee is dirty, even though it is legal.

      • Adam Czech

        So David Bakhtiari is a dirty player for attempting cut blocks around defender’s knees in the SF and CIN games (even though both failed)?

  • JRMD

    I agree with Hank. Keep your head up and “hit& wrap”. I don’t buy this desecrate need to launch yourself at a guy’s knees as the only way you can get a guy on the ground. I might be able to buy it if it was a huge tight end that was a lot bigger than Elam but that was not the case. He could have even jumped on Cobb and dragged him to the ground. The hit may not have been illegal, but IMO, it was unnecessary and dangerous! The tackle box should be shoulders to knees. Even hits below the knees allow a ball carrier to jump or hurdle. When a defender launches at your knees, you’re usually screwed. It’s also extremely dangerous for the defender. Taking a knee to the helmet with such force risks severe head and neck injury. The play was obviously “split second”, but it was unwise.Also, the head of the fibula is essentially the lateral aspect of the knee joint, thus the injury from the direct blow:(

  • Martha Hess

    Dear Al:

    We here in Wisconsin we so worried about Mr. Cobb and Mr. Jones that we, to our eternal shame, forgot to inquire about the health and happiness of your new roommate. Would you please forgive us?

    Always a warm place in Green Bay for you!


    The People of Green Bay

  • Chad Toporski

    To me, the definition of a “dirty” hit is not always in the “how” of the tackle, but the intent of the tackle. I don’t believe, based on what I saw, that Elam was intending to hurt Cobb.

    Heck, we’ve seen our own defensive players throw their shoulders into ball carriers’ legs to take them down. It’s nothing new.

  • Stroh

    Not dirty?! Are you out of your mind? I get that hitting zones are shrinking badly to the point where its almost difficult to tackle a guy these days w/o drawing a flag or fine. But he went low and hit Cobb directly on the knee! Turn this around for a second… How do you think Elam would like it if he was on offense and Cobb the defender dove into his knee? I have a feeling he would be pretty pissed about it.

    Look WR make their living Running. Ask any WR were they would rather take a hit and they’ll tell you they would rather get hit high and likely have a concussion than get hit low and lose a season plus due to having their knee taken out! Going at their knees is messing w/ a guys livelihood.

    Goodell having never played the game at this level apparently doesn’t care what the players want!

    • Stroh

      Bottom line it was a legal hit, at least for now, by the rules. But it was a dirty play in the eyes of every NFL player! Within the rules is something different than legal.

      BTW a commentator, Schefter I believe, said that the NFL due to this hit and the one on Keller in the preseason, is going to look into making hits at the knees illegal.

      Thanks for providing us the w/ National Touch Football League, Roger!

      • marpag

        “Within the rules is something different than legal”?? Not sure that’s what you meant to say…

    • Adam Czech

      RBs cut block blitzing DBs around the knees all the time. Offensive linemen cut block all the time. Defenders get hit around the knees fairly often.

      Welcome to football, folks.

      • Stroh

        Cut blocking is entirely different than having a running start and diving low at a guys knees. Surely you do see the difference don’t you?!

  • Mojo

    I agree with everything Adam wrote. Since when did taking out someones legs automatically constitute an illegal hit? It happens all the time, probably nearly every play if you count blockers diving at defenders legs.

    It was a bang-bang play where unfortunately Cobb was injured. I can’t tell if there was malice in Elam’s heart, but neither can anyone else. I doubt it though.

  • marpag

    It seems bizarre to me that people are even arguing about this. Which broadcast are people watching? It’s gotta happen at least a dozen time per game that a ballcarrier is brought down when a defender takes his legs out from underneath him. How can you watch even one game and not see that?? It’s been that way since 1920, it’s still perfectly legal and it HAPPENS ALL THE TIME.

    (As a side note, I hope you guys are recording the games. That way you can go back and see all of the tackles that you obviously have not been seeing!)

    Frankly, I think the only reason people are all up in arms about this is that Aaron Rodgers got in Elam’s face.

    It’s just like the O-line making cut blocks. All the D-line guys bitch and moan about cut blocks being “dirty.” But those D-line guys are wrong, and in this case, so is Aaron Rodgers.

  • Spiderpack

    Seems to me people are arguing for the sake of arguing. No, it wasn’t a dirty hit, no, it wasn’t an illegal hit, yes, Elam possibly had time to aim higher for the torso or waist.