By Alan Robinson
Steelers linebacker Terence Garvin plans to reach out to injured Bengals punter Kevin Huber to tell him that he is thinking of him and hopes his recovery goes well.
“I’ll probably say something to him, let him know I’m praying for him and (I) hope he gets healthy,” Garvin said Wednesday.
Garvin’s helmet-to-chin block Sunday on Huber, which occurred when the punter was trying to prevent Antonio Brown’s 67-yard punt return touchdown, resulted in a broken jaw, a cracked vertebra and a concussion for Huber. He will miss the rest of the season and the playoffs.
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham, who often gets involved in trying to make tackles on returns, said he feels badly for Huber.
“Playing this game is difficult; it’s a violent game,” Suisham said. “Certainly, watching the clip with Kevin getting hit like that – over the years, I’ve gotten to know him and I’ve got a lot of respect for him – certainly I hate to see him be hurt like that. … But football is a dangerous game.”
The hit, while not penalized, violated the NFL’s rule that declares that punters are defenseless players throughout a play and cannot be struck in the head or neck area by a helmet, forearm or shoulder. Garvin is expected to be fined.
NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said during his weekly NFL Network appearance that the Steelers should have been penalized 15 yards, a penalty that would have nullified Brown’s touchdown.
“This is an illegal block,” Blandino told the NFL Network. “It should have been a flag for a 15-yard penalty. … This will certainly be a point of emphasis this week, especially for our referees, who are responsible for the punter on a play like this.”
Multiple Steelers players defended Garvin on Wednesday, saying it is impossible during high-speed plays to determine if a player who is attempting to throw a block or make a tackle is a punter or kicker.
The players said on such plays, they’re looking only for a player wearing an opposing jersey.
“Everybody is out there wearing a helmet, everybody is moving fast and you just react and hit,” safety Shamarko Thomas said.
Garvin said he can’t change the way he plays because of the hit, even if he is fined.
“When you’re playing football, you don’t think of all that, you’re thinking about doing what you’ve got to do to make a play,” Garvin said. “I wasn’t out there trying to be vicious or anything like that, I’m just trying to do what I can to make a play and help my team out.
“When you’re in a game, you’re trying to make a play, that’s all I’m thinking about.”