ed.- bumped from the fanposts
Chopping, cutting, chop blocking...call it whatever you want, but the act of hitting a defender in his shins to nullify him is as dangerous now as it ever was. Every coach I've ever encountered has spoken of its perils. And some, have gone as far to say that while chopping is dangerous, it's not even the most destructive blocking technique. That honor, it should be noted, goes to the practice of Roll Blocking. Don't be surprised if you haven't heard of it. Officials would refer to it as tripping. But old timers...they know all about it.
We don't see roll blocks anymore because they're even more dangerous and deliberate than chop blocks and no one, no matter how stupid, would attempt to do something that would so easily earn a penalty. The only reason I even know of this block is that I once coached with an old school guy who showed me the technique on a blocking dummy. Basically, a player would try to cut off a defender at his side (think edge of shoulder to thigh and knee) and then, while the defender tried to fight through him, the blocker would literally push his body into the defender's. Engaged with the defender, he would quickly drop and roll around, thus latching onto the defender's leg and foot, and tripping him (as well as likely injuring him). If someone did this now, they'd likely earn a tripping penalty and whatever else the officials deemed appropriate.
Still, chopping is one of those things that football coaches acknowledge as dangerous. Teams don't chop their own players at practice. In drills, the block is performed on bags. In scrimmages, offensive players usually tell the scout team defender, "Hey, it's a quick slant...you're getting cut" and both men will engage and kneel at the snap. In scrimmages between first team units, the offensive players will usually use a different technique. Offenses do this because they know exactly how dangerous hitting a man below the knees can be.
It takes very little for the procedure to go horribly wrong. And coaches are aware of it. I can remember going to a MLB baseball camp when I was a teenager. The middle infield coach from the Cincinnati ("Cincinnata" to the Kentucky Kinfolk) Reds demonstrated how a second baseman or shortstop should be positioned at the bag on a double play. He stressed to keep the knees bent and weight on the balls of the feet because the sliding player could likely chop out your legs. He said if you weren't ready your knees would be ripped apart. And that was in baseball.
So imagine in football, where the players are much bigger and stronger, how damaging this can be. As an offensive player, the only safe way to cut is to hit the defender when he's straight in front of you. Anything to the side is dangerous and frowned upon. That said, the fact Arkansas players and Auburn players in the past (don't forget about Glenn Dorsey and Dan Williams) have earned a reputation for using these blocks in unsafe situations warrants some suspicion as to what their motivation is. And it warrants some line of questioning for their coaches. Was Wade Grayson really just trying to block Marcell Dareus on that slip screen? When two players "high and low" a defender, is it really an accident or missed assignment? And how can professional coaches--regardless of the pressure to win and disappointment of losses--stand behind players who have arguably tried to injury other players with impunity?
I personally think Wade Grayson should be questioned about what he did to Dareus. He should have to stand before a crowd and explain what he was doing as footage of that play runs continuously. I think Ryan Pugh should be questioned in the same fashion for some of his past blocks. It's only appropriate because there is no place for that kind of play in football. It's dirty. And if they're going to protect quarterbacks and receivers with hitting restrictions, they damn sure better protect defensive players. If that means chopping is outlawed altogether, so be it. You'll have to block a man on your feet. Oh, no!
Everyone wants to win, but deliberately blasting into the side of a player's knee to hurt him is tantamount to shooting a fawn or a man punching a woman. It's cheap, low class, and completely uncalled for. I don't care if it's a heated rivalry and you don't want to lose and you're envious of the attention heaped upon another player. You don't do something like that. Bring Wade Grayson and Bobby Petrino to the podium. Now.