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Report: NFL not likely to ban low blocks by next season

Ian Williams

San Francisco 49ers’ Ian Williams (93) is taken off the field with an injury in the first half of an NFL football game against the Seattle Seahawks, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2013, in Seattle. (AP Photo/John Froschauer)


San Francisco 49ers nose tackle saw Ian Williams saw his season come to an abrupt end against the Seattle Seahawks Sunday night.

Wiliams suffered a broken ankle on a legal cut block from Seahawks’ guard J.R. Sweezy. Williams was trying to chase a toss play to running back Marshawn Lynch toward the left sideline. Sweezy’s right shoulder landed directly on the just-planted left foot of Williams and he crumpled to the turf. Williams was placed on injured reserve this week.

The block from Sweezy is typical of zone-blocking teams. The linemen on a run play attempt to cut down the backside defenders to create cutback lanes for their running back. It’s the system Mike Shanahan and the Denver Broncos utilized for years with Terrell Davis, Mike Anderson, Olandis Gary and Clinton Portis to post several productive seasons and is used by many teams across the league. The blocks aren’t illegal like chop blocks are. A chop block is when a defender is engaged with a blocker and then another player dives at his legs.

However, with an injury like the one Williams sustained Sunday night, it’s natural to ask with the league’s focus on improving player safety if cut blocks will continue to be fair game at the line of scrimmage.

According to Alex Marvez of, don’t expect any changes to the rule to be made by next season. Competition committee chairman Rich McKay of the Atlanta Falcons said the group decided earlier this year against advocating for a change of the rules on blocks such as Sweezy’s on Williams.

Offensive coaches feel that eliminating those blocks would make cultivating a successful running game incredibly difficult. McKay said the competition committee took input from coaches around the league before electing to leave the rules alone for the time being.

“We brought in offensive line coaches, defensive line coaches, defensive linemen and linebacker coaches this year to the competition committee to talk about cut blocking, that very play (involving Williams) and those types of plays,” McKay said. “We really came out recommending no change.”

McKay said it doesn’t mean they won’t revisit the issue in the future, but that for now cut blocks will remain a part of the norm at the line of scrimmage.