AP Sports Writer
ASHBURN, Va. (AP) -- Washington Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather will appeal the two-game suspension for his latest helmet-to-helmet blow, a hit his coach called a "legitimate football play" while teammates stood up for him with much stronger words.
Coach Jay Gruden said Tuesday he hopes the team can get the NFL to revoke or reduce the sanction for the hit on Torrey Smith in Saturday's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens. It is the sixth time Meriweather has been cited for a violation of player safety rules.
"Unfortunately, for Brandon, he's got a history of these types of events," Gruden said. "Whether or not it was significant enough to warrant a suspension is what they decided. ... He tried to lower his target, I thought. I thought it was a legitimate football play, but the NFL didn't see it that way."
Meriweather was suspended for two games last year for a pair of helmet-first hits in game against the Chicago Bears, but the penalty was reduced to one game after an appeal.
Gruden and Redskins players argue that Meriweather couldn't avoid the helmet-to-helmet contact on Smith because both players lowered their heads at about the same time on an incomplete pass over the middle.
"The stuff they ask us to do as a defender sometimes is unreal," linebacker Perry Riley said. "When you're playing the game at this speed and at this level, it goes so fast. You don't have time to break on the ball and then try to put your body in position to get a man the correct way. It's bang-bang.
"You can sit up there in the air conditioning and replay a play and slow it down as much as you want and say what he should've done, but if you're not out there going at full speed, you don't know. It's not as easy as they try to make it seem."
Second-year cornerback David Amerson said it's just the latest setback for defensive backs, on top of this year's new rules emphasis on downfield contact.
"What else do you want him to do?" Amerson said. "I love the way Meriweather plays, fast and physical, that's what football is. That's what defensive players try to get to, or live for. They're making it get to a point where it's just like, man, we got our hands tied behind our back. You can't touch receivers. You can't hit 'em, now you can't touch 'em. What's going to be next? We can't intercept the ball? It's getting crazy, man. It's a hard time to coming in to the league right now for a DB."
Meriweather declined to comment, shaking his head at a reporter as he walked out of the locker room. Smith said on Twitter that he doesn't think Meriweather should be suspended, but he added he might feel differently had he ended up with a concussion.
If the suspension stands, Meriweather would miss the first two regular season games. Gruden said second-year player Bacarri Rambo, who had tackling issues as a rookie, is the "first option" to start in Meriweather's spot. Rambo said he's worked on taking better angles in the open field.
"I have matured a lot," Rambo said. "I see the game a lot differently."
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