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September 29, 2006

Wallace shouldn't be scapegoat for Simms' injury

Al Wallace took a hit Friday.

The Panthers defensive end was fined $7,500 for his hit on Tampa Bay quarterback Chris Simms on Sunday. The league found that Wallace roughed the passer.

Maybe he did and maybe he didn’t. The officiating crew working the game didn’t call a penalty on the play. But you pretty much knew Wallace was going to be the scapegoat the instant Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden came out and pointed at that play as the one that caused a serious injury to Simms and suggested strongly there should have been a penalty.

It’s interesting that Gruden was so aggressive in talking about an injury. Members of the Tampa Bay media frequently joke about Gruden’s handling of injury information. He’s been known to get the injured body part wrong and members of the Tampa Bay media say that once a player is injured, he’s totally off Gruden’s radar.

That wasn’t the case with Simms. Why? There’s a theory out there (and we emphasize it’s just a theory making the rounds) that Gruden is protecting his own butt and that of the Bucs’ medical staff. It’s kind of interesting that Gruden is singling out the Wallace hit, which took place in the fourth quarter.

There were several other big hits on Simms. Defensive tackle Kris Jenkins hit Simms in the first quarter and said he noticed the quarterback holding his ribs afterward. Several Panthers shared that opinion. And several Bucs said it was shortly after that play that they noticed Simms having trouble breathing and getting his words out in the huddle.

We’ll never know for sure which hit caused Simms’ spleen to rupture. Maybe it was Wallace’s and maybe the fine is deserved.

What’s not deserved is this: When people around the country pick up their sports sections Saturday, they’re going to see the story and the automatic assumption will be that Wallace caused the injury and his conduct was out of line. Wallace even runs the risk of forever having his career remembered for that play, and some people are bound to judge him a bad guy.

Anyone that knows Wallace knows he’s one of the best human beings in the Carolina locker room. He expressed genuine concern for Simms on Wednesday.

He’ll pay the fine quietly.

If you’re looking for the victim here, it’s Simms. If you’re looking for a scapegoat, don’t look at Wallace. Go back and look at the film of the entire game and, only after you’ve seen that, decide who is to blame.

Posted by Observer Sports on September 29, 2006 at 04:12 PM | Permalink


This kind of a thing is always unfortunate. Let's face it, players want to take out the QB, but not on a dirty play. Wallace is not a dirty player. If the NFL wants to fine him on a play where no flag is thrown. So be it. But do not make him responsible for Simms injury.

Posted by: James | Sep 29, 2006 6:37:11 PM

Even if you think Wallace's hit was late, had it been a split second earlier, the same result would have happened... and it would have been legal. The timing of the hit has nothing to do with the injury.

Posted by: Stinger | Sep 29, 2006 10:44:32 PM

Obviously, the NFL decision makers did not see the monday Tampa Tribune Newspaper. The front page has a very large photo of Simms with the football still in his hand, and Wallace with BOTH ARMS around Simms. The replay shows that Simms still threw the pass. Isn't the defender supposed to try to prevent completion of the pass? What is wrong with that picture? Duh...

Posted by: Tom Smith | Sep 30, 2006 7:51:42 AM

I think it's ashame that the NFL assessed a penalty to Wallace, when what he did was perfectly legal. Al broke no rules. They might as well have fined the whole defensive line for playing what they call "football". I hope the Panther's pay this fine for him.

Posted by: ncoutlander | Sep 30, 2006 8:56:21 AM

If Gruden wants to point the finger at Al then he has three fingers pointing back at himself. We went to the game and there was hardly any max protect, if you know your QB is getting hit hard and repeatedly then you need to protect him. Gruden sold him out! More over he even pointed out his ribs hurting were hurting early in the game...and he still didnt sub him...wreckless absolutely wreckless....

Posted by: Ritchie | Sep 30, 2006 7:33:45 PM

I'm sure a Gruden-coached team has never done anything defensively that would even remotely be considered questionable. He has no right to cast the first stone. I bet he would not have been as near upset if Tampa had won the game.

Posted by: mike | Oct 2, 2006 7:20:13 AM

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