What exactly was JuJu Smith-Schuster thinking when he launched himself into New York Jets linebacker C.J. Mosley on Sunday in what was a clearly illegal blindside block that cost the New England Patriots 10 yards?
Apparently he was inspired by a wide receiver notorious for making similar plays.
After the Patriots' 15-10 win over the Jets at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Smith-Schuster admitted to our Phil Perry that he watched blocking highlights of former Pittsburgh Steelers wideout Hines Ward, which may have led to his over-aggressiveness on the illegal hit.
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"I was just trying to make a play to help my boys," Smith-Schuster told Perry. "I wasn't thinking. I keep forgetting there's a new rule.
"... It's funny, I was watching Hines Ward, his blocking videos, before the game today. I saw that, and I saw an opportunity, and I took advantage of it. Yeah, it wasn't smart by me to do that. Different era."
It's indeed a different era -- in part because of Ward. The four-time Pro Bowler developed a reputation as a big (and sometimes dirty) hitter in the blocking game, and his vicious crack-back block on Cincinnati's Keith Rivers in 2008 played a part in the NFL making such blocks illegal.
"Former Steelers receiver Hines Ward, I'm sure (Smith-Schuster) has a lot of respect for him, great blocker at that position -- he's watching Hines Ward highlights before a game where he knows he's probably going to have to block a bunch," Perry told fellow Patriots Insider Tom E. Curran on the Patriots Talk Podcast on Sunday while discussing Smith-Schuster's comments. "The problem is, the rules have changed quite a bit since Hines Ward's been in the game."
"And the rules changed specifically because of Hines Ward!" Curran replied. "He broke Keith Rivers' jaw in 2008 on a crack-back block against the Cincinnati Bengals. Just almost sawed the man's head off! And that really was the impetus behind starting to erase those blocks."
Smith-Schuster's lapse in judgment was the start of an ill-fated Patriots drive in the third quarter that featured three penalties and a New England punt from its own 12-yard line. The 26-year-old also made essentially no impact in the passing game, catching just one pass for five yards on three targets.
Smith-Schuster is off to a slow start with the Patriots through three games, with 10 catches for 66 yards on 16 targets.
Also discussed in this episode:
- How relieved was the locker room after the win?
- Was Patriots-Jets closer than necessary?
- Dominant performance by the Patriots’ defense.
- Who should be the go-to guy on offense?