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Dan Campbell defends Kerby Joseph’s low hits that resulted in ACL tears

Detroit Lions coach Dan Campbell defended hits by safety Kerby Joseph that resulted in torn ACLs for Vikings TE T.J. Hockenson and Rams TE Tyler Higbee.

NFC Wild Card Playoffs - Los Angeles Rams v Detroit Lions Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

During Sunday’s playoff game against the Los Angeles Rams, Detroit Lions safety Kerby Joseph tackled tight end Tyler Higbee with a blow to the legs that sent the Rams tight end flipping over onto his head. Days later, it was revealed Higbee tore his ACL on the play. Just a few weeks earlier, Joseph laid a similar tackle on Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson, which also resulted in a torn ACL (and MCL).

That has led to some public scrutiny of Joseph and the Lions defense, with allegations of “dirty” play, despite the fact that those tackles are by the book completely legal.

On Wednesday, Lions coach Dan Campbell defended Joseph’s play.

“That’s how we play football here,” Campbell said. “Just keep your head up, see what you hit. That’ll always be what I tell Kerby. Just keep your eyes up so you don’t hit on the crown of your helmet, hit a spine, mess yourself up there. Just see what you hit. But, no, he’s going for the thigh board and staying away from the head. That’s how we play defense here. It’s not dirty. You know, we hit.”

On the Higbee hit, you can see that Joseph clearly does lead with the head down:

There aren’t as many good angles of the Hockenson hit, but it certainly looks like a similar situation where, as Campbell explained, Joseph needs to do a better job protecting himself with his head placement.

It’s worth noting that there have been some who have come to Joseph’s defense, including Vikings safety Harrison Smith, who notes NFL rules have given defensive backs little choice in these situations.

Teammate Alex Anzalone also came to Joseph’s defense, after the Lions safety tried to explain that his intention was never to injure anyone.

Joseph was not fined for his hit on Hockenson.

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