Broncos' Simmons defends suspended teammate Jackson, says NFL enforces rules inconsistently
ENGLEWOOD, Colo. (AP) — Justin Simmons gave another impassioned defense of suspended Denver Broncos teammate Kareem Jackson on Wednesday, calling for the NFL to provide more clarity and consistency in the rules intended to protect the health and safety of players.
“It's just like anything in life,” Simmons said. “If I'm told to get my job done and I ask how to get my job done and the response is just, ‘Get it done,’ OK, I'll try my best but ...”
Simmons said it's imperative for the players' union to address concerns about the rules with the league during the offseason.
The NFL on Tuesday upheld its four-game suspension of Jackson for lowering his helmet to hit Vikings quarterback Joshua Dobbs in Denver's 21-20 win Sunday night. It came on the third play of the game and on Jackson's first tackle in his return from a two-game suspension for an illegal hit on a Packers player in Week 7.
Asked if Jackson had let down his teammates by promptly running afoul of the league's safety rules in his first game back, Simmons replied, “No, not even close.”
Simmons, who starts at safety alongside Jackson, referenced a social media post he made Monday after Jackson’s latest suspension was handed down as an example of the league's uneven enforcement.
It quoted the rule the league referenced in its letter to Jackson along with a clip from the Broncos' previous game in which Bills rookie linebacker Dorian Williams avoided punishment for a similar violation when he launched at Denver receiver Courtland Sutton, hitting him in the facemask with the crown of his helmet.
Sutton said that play met the definition of the NFL's Rule 12, Section 2, Article 10 (a), which states that “it is a foul if a player lowers his head and makes forcible contact with his helmet against an opponent.”
“I wasn't trying to single out the Bills player. I don't even know him,” Simmons said. “But I was just trying to prove that like there’s no consistency in what’s being asked of us as as defensive players. And it’s costing guys.”
In Jackson's case, that cost isn't just the $558,000 in lost paychecks, but the hit he's taking to his reputation, Simmons said.
“I mean, the fact that he’s going to miss the next four games in a crucial part of our season is unbelievable,” Simmons said. “And for a play that if that’s routinely going to be called, why was it not called on that one play? Sure they threw the flag but we’re going to throw the flag against the Bills and not fine him. And we’re going to not throw the flag against Kareem but fine him and then also give another four-game suspension?”
Simmons insisted he wasn't attacking the NFL or the officiating.
“The intent is where are you actually trying to help us get better? What are the coaching points? What are the ways that you're going to help us to apply that?" Simmons asked. "Because if we're just going to slap fines on guys and slap suspensions on them and then when they come back and nothing's changed, that's not our fault.
“We're trying our best to adapt to the rules while we’re in the game,” Simmons added. “And it’s just hard to unlearn something you’ve done for 14, 13 years in the league — specifically talking about Kareem.”
Simmons noted that the league has long glorified its hard hitters — “We have guys who have banners hanging up in the Hall of Fame that have played tremendous ball in this league and we praise them every single year at the Super Bowl. We have the top 100 of all time and there's guys that are literally praised for those types of hits in our game.”
Simmons also suggested the NFL is misguided in prohibiting suspended players such as Jackson from having any contact with teammates or coaches.
“That's another thing I'm upset about is because we preach that players' mental health is important and we preach how important that is to us but then we’re telling a guy who’s been nothing but great to this organization since he’s been here and has helped so many people, ‘Hey, stay away.' Like, 'Not only are you suspended, but you can’t help the young guys. ... You can’t be around the facility.
“I mean, thank God Kareem has a family and people that can love on him because if this was a younger guy, you’re basically sending him back home and who knows what trouble he could get into?
"Consistency and clarity is all we're asking."
An NFL spokesman didn't immediately return an email Wednesday evening seeking comment.
The pair of suspensions will end up costing Jackson $837,000 in lost wages in addition to the $89,670 he's been docked for four illegal hits earlier this season.
The Broncos (5-5) will be without their 14th-year safety for a critical stretch, including two games against teams also in the AFC playoff hunt, the Cleveland Browns (7-3) at home Sunday and the Houston Texans (6-4) on the road next week.
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