***Updated @ 8:39 p.m.***
According to NFL spokesman Greg Aiello, the league will review Slauson's block on Cushing to determine if his low-hit was in fact legal.
No one has accused Jets guard Matt Slauson of trying to injure star Houston linebacker Brian Cushing, but Slauson’s cut block on Monday night that resulted in a season-ending knee injury for Cushing provoked an outcry by some NFL defenders. Chief among them was Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who was Cushing’s college teammate at USC.
“If the NFL really wants to increase player safety, start protecting players on BOTH sides of the ball,” Matthews tweeted. “Where is the NFL’s protection on blocks below the waist like that on Cushing? Double standard!”
Indeed, Slauson’s cut block was dangerously close to a clip from behind, and Cushing suffered a torn left ACL. The fact it happened to a star like Cushing drew attention, but blocks like that happen all the time on running plays.
Asked for his reaction to Matthews' comments, Slauson said. "I have no reaction to it."
At the same time, Slauson defended his actions. "It’s unfortunate, but it happens," Slauson said after Wednesday's practice. "I wasn’t trying to hurt him obviously. I must have just caught him by surprise."
Describing the technique he used, Slauson added, "I’m told to cut on the back side when they call ‘outside zone’ plays, so, I’m going to cut.
"Every coach I’ve ever had has taught to cut on the back side of an ‘outside zone’ play. I don’t know why this is a big deal. I feel bad that Cushing got hurt. That wasn’t my intent at all. But I’ve got to do my job."
Jets coach Rex Ryan defended Slauson when asked about the injury. “First off, I’ll say it’s an unfortunate thing,” Ryan said. “Clearly, in this league, it’s all about the players, and Brian is a great player, no question about it. You hate to see that.
“It’s something that definitely was not intentional. It’s a legal block. We’re a team that doesn’t cut very often. Sometimes, we’ll cut on the second level [downfield from line of scrimmage]. He’s an active guy…It’s an unfortunate thing.”
Ryan noted that the Texans coincidentally are a zone-blocking team that uses cut blocks on nearly every running play. “It’s a technique you teach,” Ryan said. “It’s not dirty. It’s just a technique. That’s almost every single run on the backside they’ll do that. With us, clearly, it was unintentional, and I feel terrible for Brian and for the league because the league loses when you lose a player like that.”
The Jets’ coach praised the NFL for the job it has done protecting defensive linemen from “high-low” blocks by making it illegal for a player to throw a block below the waist when a defensive lineman is engaged with another offensive blocker.
Jets defensive lineman Kenrick Ellis also suffered a knee injury in the game. It kept him from practicing Wednesday, but he is expected to recover. Asked if he saw anything illegal on that play, Ryan said, “No, it was one of those unfortunate things.”