On Thursday, the Redskins earned their first preseason victory of the season, defeating the Falcons 19-7 on the road in Atlanta.
But after the game, celebrating an exhibition win was not in the cards. Attention was turned directly to the health of Washington's star tight end.
After absorbing a brutal helmet-to-helmet hit from Falcons safety Keanu Neal in the second quarter, resulting in his helmet flying off, tight end Jordan Reed was forced to exit the contest. No. 86 started feeling concussion-like symptoms at halftime, and head coach Jay Gruden confirmed after the game that Reed had entered the concussion protocol.
The tight end has a history of concussions. If diagnosed with a concussion again, this would be the seventh documented instance for Reed since he started playing college football.
On Redskins Postgame Live, saying that NBC Sports Washington's Trevor Matich was furious about Neal's hit would be an understatement.
“Just looking at that hit, I thought it was a dirty hit. It was dirty," Matich said. "The safety coming up had plenty of time to see what was going on. Reed was in the grass. Reed didn’t duck his head down, and ended up taking a helmet to his head because of a defender coming in low and didn’t expect Reed to duck."
Matich completely put the blame on Neal and emphasized that there's no place for a hit like that, especially during exhibition football when the games don't count in the standings.
"Reed didn’t duck his head. That defender came in high," he said. "That was a dirty hit. It would have been dirty in the regular season, and especially dirty in the preseason.”
The play resulted in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. But it's fair to question whether Neal deserved a harsher punishment.
Santana Moss was asked whether he thought Neal should have been ejected for the hit, and he had no doubt in his answer.
“It should have been," Moss said. "I saw last week in a preseason game a guy had one shot to the head and he was out of there."
Inconsistent officiating has been an issue in the NFL for several years.
As the league continues each year to alter the rules in order to make the game safer, Moss wants to see the officiating improve its consistency as well.
"That’s one thing I wanted to see, that our officials do better," Moss said. "We talk about all the rules they are changing and the way they’re going to ref these games. When you see something like that, instantly get the guy out of there. This is something that we’re not trying to tolerate. If you allow guys to do this, you’ll find guys in situations like Jordan Reed.”
The NFL continues to try and make the game safer. Many rules have been put into effect recently to eliminate hits like Neal's. Of course, defenders largely dislike these guidelines, claiming it takes away from their ability to defend receivers. Some fans may dislike the lack of contact as well.
“It takes away some spectacular hits that fans want to see," Matich said.
But at the end of the day, the NFL is a business.
"Ultimately, this is family entertainment in the NFL. Head trauma is not good for business," Matich said. "It’s just not. You have an expense of losing some of those fantastic hits, but you also have fewer concussions and problems."
While Neal's hit may have been deemed acceptable and regarded as a great hit a decade ago, there's no place for a hit like that in today's NFL.
"I thought that hit right there was just plain dirty," Matich said.
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