After Dustin Keller's injury, Jets question wisdom of rules changes

Dustin Keller of the Miami Dolphins is carted

Dustin Keller of the Miami Dolphins is carted off the field after a rough tackle in the first half against the Houston Texans during a preseason game at Reliant Stadium. (Aug. 17, 2013) (Credit: Getty Images)

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Konrad Reuland could only stomach one viewing of Dustin Keller's season-ending knee injury.

"I don't ever want to see it again. I saw it once and that was enough," the Jets tight end said Tuesday.

Keller -- who signed a one-year deal with the rival Miami Dolphins after five seasons with the Jets -- tore his ACL, PCL, MCL and dislocated his kneecap after Texans safety D.J. Swearinger delivered a helmet-hit to Keller's leg in a preseason game Saturday night.

"And it couldn't have happened to a better guy, which is real unfortunate," Reuland said.

In the wake of Keller's injury, and so many others this preseason, many NFL players find themselves questioning the rules changes that were implemented to promote their own safety.

Swearinger told The Palm Beach Post that he dove low at Keller in order to avoid a helmet-to-helmet hit. "If you go high, you're going to get a fine," he said.

But while defensive players are fearing fines, Reuland said much more is at stake for receivers and running backs.

"Me, personally, I'd rather be hit up high than have a guy dive at my knees," he said. "Your knees, that takes a year [to recover from] and it's a possible career-ender for guys. Whereas a concussion, you're back in two or three weeks. I think that's the big difference. It takes away your livelihood for at least a year, so that's the frustrating part.

"It's just weird how things have changed from the past. Before, diving at the knees was a dirty play. Now hitting up high is a dirty play. It's almost done a complete 180."

The rules changes have been discussed "here and there" among Jets players, even as recently as Tuesday morning over breakfast, Reuland said. And players on both sides of the football say they're mindful of the consequences that come with following -- and disregarding -- the new helmet-to-helmet rule.

"You have to take it into consideration," Jets linebacker Danny Lansanah said. "When you're going for a hit, you've got to aim now instead of just playing fast."

After watching a clip of the Keller injury Monday night ("That was nasty," Lansanah said), the linebacker believes Swearinger's hit was clean.

"If he would have hit him up top, he would have gotten fined," Lansanah said. "And when you play the game, this is how you make a living. So you don't want to give your money back."

Fellow linebacker Garrett McIntyre said Monday that he expects to see more knee injuries because of the rule change.

"No matter what rule you change, there's still going to be knee injuries, there's still going to be concussions," said McIntyre, who has been fined "a few times," including $15,750 last season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Rams quarterback Sam Bradford. "I know they're looking out for our safety, but I think that plays a part in it."

Reuland said he sympathizes with defensive players because oftentimes he believes certain helmet-to-helmet collisions are "over-called."

"It's hard for a defensive guy, when you have someone lined up and your target changes, and then all of a sudden where you wanted to hit is now his head cause he's ducking down," he said. "But then there's also ones where it's just malicious and you can tell. And I think those should be fined."

There is, however, "a happy medium," Reuland said.

The NFL just hasn't found it.

"I think diving and taking out someone's legs shouldn't really be allowed," Reuland said. "I understand if you've got a guy faced up and you're going to dive low and take him out. That's one thing. But a guy that's not even looking and you come from the side and take out his knee -- I don't think there's really a place for that in this league."

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