Was Lamarcus Joyner’s hit on Teddy Bridgewater truly “dirty”?

It was one of the first things you heard after St. Louis Rams cornerback Lamarcus Joyner knocked Minnesota Vikings quarterback Teddy Bridgewater out with what at the time was ruled an illegal hit — or officially an act of “unnecessary roughness” — Sunday in Minneapolis.

Fox play-by-play man Thom Brennaman declared that it was “a dirty play,” and few have disputed that claim since.

But was it?

Yes, defenders are expected to pull up as soon as quarterbacks give themselves up with a slide, but the reality in this extremely fast-paced, hard-hitting game is that doing so is sometimes simply impossible.

Unfortunately, I think a lot of people fail to understand how hard it is to reverse momentum in those moments. We look at a replay from our couches and criticize these guys for moments that are often impossible to completely control. I don’t think Joyner could have done anything more to slow his own momentum.

And yes, his elbow appeared to contact Bridgewater’s head, but…

A) If you think a player moving at lightning-speed has full control over all limbs at all times, you’re kidding yourself. And no, there’s no way to change the game so much that players will gain that ability, at least while still calling it football.

As Joyner stated afterwards, “it was a bam-bam play.”

B) Why exactly would Joyner risk a huge penalty and a potential fine and suspension in order to take a cheap shot against someone he considers to be a family friend?

“He’s a taller stature guy compared to me,” explained Joyner. “I did not know he was gonna slide. When I launched, he slid, and we connected. If I could take it back, I would take it back, because I am not a dirty player. Was it intentional? Not at all. So I can’t fix the problem. But how I feel inside, it’s not good.”

Look at the replay and tell me that isn’t somebody trying his best to turn out of a hit despite the laws of physics…


That doesn’t mean Joyner didn’t commit a foul, it just means there wasn’t malice, which is very important. I think it separates a hit that is only technically illegal (in other words, tough circumstances for both parties) from a hit that is flat-out dirty. Despite the fact Gregg Williams is his defensive coordinator, I think it’s fair to conclude that Joyner wasn’t trying to injure Bridgewater, and in fact it appears his elbow makes contact only as he’s trying his best to get the hell out of the way.

But don’t take it from me, because Bridgewater’s most famous teammate agrees.

“It appeared dirty but watching the replay I honestly feel, my opinion, that he didn’t target him,” Adrian Peterson told PFT. “If he was targeting him he did a bad job of executing. I feel like it was a bang-bang play. Teddy slid; unfortunately his head came up. If his head’s flat, I think the guy’s shoulder misses but that’s not normally how a quarterbacks’s head is when he’s sliding. . . . It was still, though, you see the quarterback approaching you so you should you know he’s going to slide. You see him in his slide formation. You should just do a run by anyway and not put yourself in that position, but unfortunately for him he did, and it was upsetting to say the least.”

Tough break, but not malicious, which is probably why Joyner won’t be suspended. And he shouldn’t be fined, either.

About Brad Gagnon

Brad Gagnon has been passionate about both sports and mass media since he was in diapers -- a passion that won't die until he's in them again. Based in Toronto, he's worked as a national NFL blog editor at theScore.com (covering Super Bowls XLIV, XLV and XLVI), a producer and writer at theScore Television Network and a host, reporter and play-by-play voice at Rogers TV. His work has also appeared at Deadspin, FoxSports.com, The Guardian, The Hockey News and elsewhere at Bloguin, but his day gig has him covering all things NFC East for Bleacher Report.