Sam Bradford talked this past week about wanting to take a hit in Saturday night's preseason game against the Baltimore Ravens, to clear that important hurdle as he returns from two left ACL tears in two years.
The lunge Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs took at Bradford's knees on Bradford's fifth play as the Eagles' quarterback, though, "was probably not the one I had in mind when I said that," Bradford acknowledged after the Eagles' 40-17 victory at Lincoln Financial Field.
Bradford helmed an 11-play, 84-yard touchdown drive on the Eagles' first series, then sat down. Eagles coach Chip Kelly said he'd planned to get Bradford between 10 and 15 plays Saturday in the QB's first live action in 364 days.
Kelly said he didn't see the Suggs hit, which netted Suggs a 15-yard penalty for "low tackle on the quarterback," referee Jerome Boger announced. Bradford's teammates were unhappy; center Jason Kelce confronted Suggs immediately, and left tackle Jason Peters said afterward he thought the play was dirty.
"I think so," Peters said, when asked if he thought Suggs targeted Bradford's repaired knee. "He was trying to take a cheap shot at the quarterback. I'm pretty sure he planned it. We've been practicing with them all week, and I'm pretty sure he was thinking about it."
Peters indicated that in practicing against the Ravens, he gathered that they wanted to hit the QB on the read option – which is legal, to a point.
"Anytime you have a quarterback playing the read option, you can take a cheap shot on the quarterback. Not at his knees," Peters said.
"You would have to ask him, but I think that was what he was trying to do," Bradford said. "That's part of the game. You just have to move on. I was a little upset. I'm not sure I can probably repeat what I said to him. Like I said, it's part of the game. I'm sure that's not the last time that's going to happen this year."
Peters said he didn't get a chance to discuss the matter with Suggs afterward.
"He took off. He took off, didn't shake my hand or nothing at the end of the game. I didn't have a chance to say something to him," Peters said.
Asked if he thought Suggs would be fined, Peters said: "I hope so, because he tried to hit him low and hit him around his knees."
"I really don't know him … He talks a lot," Peters said of Suggs, Baltimore's six-time Pro Bowler and the league's 2011 defensive player of the year. "I think he's that type of player, dirty and takes shots on the quarterback, but I really don't know him personally."
Suggs told Baltimore reporters he is allowed to hit the QB on the read option. He didn't address the matter of seeming to lunge at Bradford's knees, which is different from tackling him.
"When you run the read option, you have to know the rules," Suggs said. "If you want to run the read option with your starting quarterback that's had two knee surgeries, that's on you. That's not my responsibility to update you on the rule."
In 2013, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino distributed a video in which he said QBs can be hit like runners until they are clearly out of the play. But if it's obvious that the QB doesn't have the ball, he can't be hit. Blandino didn't say anything about grabbing for the QB's knees, which has been a big no-no in the NFL ever since Kimo von Oelhoffen destroyed Carson Palmer's knee during a Jan. 2006 Wild Card playoff game.
It's a gray area how much out of the play a QB has to be in order for contact to be illegal. Watching Saturday night's replay, it's hard to believe Suggs actually thought Bradford still had the ball, which is the basis for allowing the defense to hit the quarterback on that type of play.
Bradford was throwing a bit high Saturday, but he completed three of five passes for 35 yards, and one of the misses should have been caught by Darren Sproles. Sproles also was the runner on the play when Suggs hit Bradford.
Kelly and Bradford said they were glad Bradford was able to take a few hits and get up – later in the drive, he took a high, legal shot from Brandon Williams that left him with a bloody lip.
"It's one of those last boxes that needed to be checked, and I think it was tonight," Bradford said. "Tonight I was able to go out there, I didn't think about my knee, which was big, for me. Just to get out there and take some shots, feel the speed of the game, feel the rush."
Kelce said he wanted to "leave on the field" what he said to Suggs. "That's something they're probably coached to do and that he's probably told to do on a read option. It's not particularly that dirty for him to hit the quarterback, (but) I thought it was just a little weird that he went right at the knee area," Kelce said.
"I really don't think, looking back on it, that it was anything malicious. I think that he's just playing the game. He's a Pro Bowl player. He's been doing this for a long time … It's over, it happens, whatever."