Anthony Barr went to the playbook every NFL player uses after injuring an opponent.
“By no means was I trying to injure or take out Aaron Rodgers,” said Barr, the Minnesota Vikings linebacker, according to the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “He’s one of, if not the best, player in this league. I’m not a dirty player. We don’t preach that around here.”
A lot has been said this week about Barr’s hit that broke Rodgers’ collarbone. Rodgers was placed on injured reserve Friday, which means he’ll miss a minimum of eight weeks. There’s a good chance he will miss the rest of the season.
Packers coach Mike McCarthy called Barr’s hit “totally unnecessary,” and that’s entirely accurate. Barr was looking at Rodgers as he released the ball. He could clearly see that Rodgers could not affect that play any further. Continuing the hit on Rodgers at that point and driving him to the ground isn’t to force an incompletion. It’s to inflict pain. That has been the culture of football forever. For Barr to suggest he was doing anything else is disingenuous.
Again, tell me what Barr is trying to do on this hit other than punish the opponent, considering the ball is out well before he gets to Rodgers:
Barr isn’t doing anything to affect the play after that point. There’s only one thing he’s trying to do. And most people are fine with that.
It’s so ingrained in football culture that you have to needlessly inflict punishment on the opponent at any chance that it’s not surprising Barr doesn’t believe he did anything wrong. Most fans won’t think he did anything wrong either, because how many times have we seen hits like that? Watch any game this Sunday. On more plays than not, you’ll see a defender take a needless shot at a ballcarrier as he’s inches from the ground. It’s not because the defender is worried about that receiver levitating and floating to the end zone.
Barr has seen screenshots too, the Star-Tribune said, and Barr said it was “less than a quarter of a second after that I was tackling him. That’s just football. It happens. It’s unfortunate.” All of that is true. It’s a physical, violent game. It moves fast. What Barr did was technically legal. He didn’t get a penalty flag for it. Keep in mind that it’s in the NFL rules that a defensive player still has the right to punish a quarterback after he has released the ball, as long as you only take one step before you do it.
Part of what we love about football is the physical aspect. If there were rules put in place to eliminate unnecessary hits on offensive players – and it’s impossible to argue that what Barr did was necessary in any way – many people would complain the game was getting soft. Players would complain the game was getting soft. It’s ingrained in the culture. On Thursday night, Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, who has three broken bones in his back, received an unnecessary shot from Kansas City Chiefs cornerback Marcus Peters after Carr was clearly going to the ground. Carr went out of his way to tell Peters he was totally OK with the hit, even though the only purpose was to inflict pain to him. That part of the game is never going to change. As long as there is football, there will be players who believe one of the keys to the game is to force the opponent into virtual submission by hitting him, whether those hits affect the play in question or not. And that is part of the game. It doesn’t make sense to deny it.
If we’re being honest, it’s not really accurate when a player says he wasn’t trying to injure an opponent after a hit like the one Barr put on Rodgers. But rolling out that explanation after the fact probably isn’t going to change either.