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Why Safety Brandon Meriweather Was Suspended and What It Means For Redskins

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Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather (center)hits Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on August 23, 2014.  (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather (center)hits Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith during a preseason game at M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore on August 23, 2014. (Photo by Larry French/Getty Images)

Brian McNally Brian McNally
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ASHBURN, Va. (CBSDC) — In the end, Redskins safety Brandon Meriweather could not escape his checkered track record.

The NFL suspended Meriweather two regular season games for his hit on Baltimore Ravens wide receiver Torrey Smith in the second quarter of Saturday’s 23-17 preseason loss at M&T Bank Stadium.

That is a difficult loss at a position where Washington has little depth. Meriweather is the starting strong safety and Ryan Clark, a free agent signing from the Pittsburgh Steelers, is the new free safety. Add in a recurring foot injury for reserve safety Phillip Thomas and suddenly the Redskins’ limited depth at that position has become exposed. Thomas missed last season with a Lisfranc sprain and the team said Monday that he again has a sore foot.

Bacarri Rambo, who struggled so much as a rookie, but has looked improved this training camp, has taken repetitions with the first team when Meriweather has sat out practice. Last week, Meriweather missed time with a toe injury, though he recovered to play against the Ravens.

Meriweather was hit with a 15-yard penalty for his hit on Smith. The NFL said in a release that the play violated its rules on forcible contact to the head and neck area of a defenseless player and impermissible use of the helmet. Troy Vincent, a five-time Pro Bowl cornerback and the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, imposed the suspension.

“A little bit [frustrating],” Meriweather said after the game on Saturday when reporters asked about a possible suspension. “Because I’m trying to do what the NFL asked me after going through this offseason, working on the things that I needed to work on and the first test I get it seems like I failed.”

His teammates didn’t agree. Long snapper Nick Sundberg, linebacker Brian Orakpo and defensive end Chris Baker all tweeted comments critical of the NFL’s decision. Wide receiver DeSean Jackson did the same in an interview with Comcast SportsNet on Monday night while cornerback DeAngelo Hall expressed his support for Meriweather before the suspension was announced and his disgust on Twitter later.

“Keep hitting and I’ll pay the fines,” Hall cracked when asked if he had any message for Meriweather. Those comments came just before Monday’s afternoon practice at Redskins Park.

Meriweather will not be allowed to have contact with the team in any form save off-site medical rehabilitation from Sept. 1 until he is reinstated on Sept. 15. It is the sixth time in his career that Meriweather has been fined or suspended for such a hit. He has three business days to appeal the decision.

“[Meriweather] did the best he could, it looked like. [Baltimore quarterback Joe] Flacco threw a late one across the middle and he saw the ball and he tried to lower his target,” Redskins coach Jay Gruden said before the suspension was announced. “Unfortunately, as he was lowering his target, the receiver felt him and lowered his head also at the same time. It was a bang-bang play. It’s going to be up to the commissioner and the people looking at that whether or not he’s going to get fined or what have you. It’s out of my hands. But I thought he tried…his best to lower his target and avoid the helmet-to-helmet contact. But sometimes when you’re lowering and your receiver lowers at exactly the same time, it’s very difficult.”

Last year Meriweather had a two-game suspension for a pair of helmet-to-helmet hits against defenseless wide receivers reduced to one game on appeal.

“I feel like they’ve been keeping a close eye on me the last couple of years, not just this year,” Meriweather said on Saturday. “But at the same time I’m going to continue to work on my game, I’m going to continue to keep trying to get lower and I’m going to try to do the things the way they want me to do.”

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