Carolina Panthers special teamer Dante Wesley was suspended by the NFL for one game after this hit on Tampa Bay Buccaneers punt returner Clifton Smith. Wesley was on punt return coverage in Carolina’s game with the Bucs Sunday when he left his feet to strike Clinton Smith in the neck. Wesley was at least one whole second ahead of the ball. Smith did not signal for a fair catch.
“I was just trying to make a play,” Wesley said after the game, a 28-21 Carolina victory. “You can check my record. … I’ve never really tried to hurt anybody.”
Coach John Fox said after watching the film Monday he didn’t believe Wesley was trying to injure Smith, who did not return to the game. via.
Whether it was intentional or not, one game seems a bit light to me. Even in the NFL, an entity renown for its regular showcasing of terrific athletes colliding into one another, this hit has a unique resonance with me, and a disturbing one. This wasn’t a lineman getting blocked on an interception or a receiver getting laid out over the middle. This was one guy using his body as a bomb to attack someone as defenseless as someone in an NFL game can be.
This cannot happen again. That needed to be the message sent by the NFL in dealing with Dante Wesley, who seems to have no problem fining the hell out of anyone on plays from scrimmage. Instead, it’s “Hey, this will look great on our highlight reel. Think you could try again on the Dolphins in Week 11?” vid.