After practice Tuesday, Bryce Treggs wanted to demonstrate what he had done, or tried to do, to the Packers’ Damarious Randall earlier this month. In the Eagles’ preseason opener, a 24-9 loss in Green Bay on Aug. 10, Treggs had lined up wide to the left and, at the snap of the football, sprinted toward the center of the field, delivering a crackback block on Randall that was vicious and naked in equal measures — a hit for which the NFL fined him $25,000 on Monday.
Treggs reacted to the fine in a since-deleted post on Twitter: “I made league minimum last year and I just got fined 25K. I’m starting a gofundme to pay it.” Randall was unamused by Treggs’ joke, responding, “Yo broke a– shouldn’t play dirty then.” Now, just seconds after signing an autograph Tuesday for a young fan at the NovaCare Complex, still wearing his pads and jersey and his skin slick with sweat, Treggs was asked about the play. He said, “He just happened to not see me, and actually, if you watch the film” — here, Treggs moved his left hand into my left shoulder, as if throwing a slow-motion punch, to simulate his head striking Randall — “my head clearly hit his shoulder before I engaged with his helmet at all. So my helmet was in front.
Yo broke ass shouldn't play dirty then https://t.co/WPmkTQyHFk
— Damarious Randall (@RandallTime) August 21, 2017
“My target area was below the neck, which is what they taught, and after I hit him in the shoulder, that’s when his head came down and hit the top of my head. It was more like a whiplash effect. The first impact was not to his head. You could see that on the film. A lot of people have labeled me a dirty player, but I don’t think it was dirty at all. That wasn’t my intention. I was just trying to do my job, and my job was to block. He just happened to not see me.”
Even if you grant that Treggs had no malice in his heart, he did admit to leading with his head, and his head coach, Doug Pederson, said, “The league obviously sees a hit on a defenseless player. When I saw the hit, it appeared that he did hit him in the head and neck area.” Pederson’s description fits the league’s criteria for an illegal crackback block, and it highlighted one of the under-discussed dynamics at play whenever the issue of head injuries in football comes up.
Often, we view the issue through the prism of the player in Randall’s position: the guy who has been, in the great football euphemism, “dinged” and who then has to make a potentially life-changing choice: Do I tell the team doctors and trainers and my coaches and teammates that I might have suffered a concussion? Do I risk losing my starting spot? Or do I keep my mouth shut and keep playing, or try to? Less often, we view the issue through Treggs’ prism. He’s an undrafted wide receiver who caught three passes in nine games for the Eagles last season and whose annual salary was $450,000. Though he had seven catches and 91 receiving yards in that game against the Packers, it would be a surprise if he were on the team’s opening-day roster. He is on the margin of the NFL, and if his leveling Randall impresses Pederson or another coach or executive with another team, if it helps him keep his job or find another, then Treggs will level away.
As an undrafted guy fighting for a roster spot, you're always trying to stand out on film. A lot of y'all don't understand that.
— Trigga Jones (@BryceTreggs) August 21, 2017
“He’s a first-round draft pick,” Treggs said of Randall, the 30th overall selection in the 2015 draft. “He probably has millions in guaranteed money. He earned that. I’m in a different position. Every time I’m out there, I’ve got to prove to the coaches that I can play. So there’s a lot more pressure on me making a block than the guy with guaranteed money. It’s not really about the big hit. It’s about being physical and showing that you’re going to do the job, and my job was to block him on that play, and I’m going to do that to the best of my ability as legally as I can.”
Has he ever been in Randall’s shoes, and would he look at things differently if he were?
“I’ve never got a concussion, knock on wood, but I’ve been hit pretty hard,” he said. “If I’m hit, I’ll never call it a dirty play. It’s football. You know what you get when you sign up here. We all know the risks of the game. That’s why we come out here and bust our a– every day. If I had a chance, I’d make that same block again except my target area would be significantly lower.”
Well, then it wouldn’t be the same block. It might not be as brutal, and it might not stand out so much on game film, and it might not put another player in so much peril. But that’s the choice that Treggs made and might yet have to make again. That’s football, for better or worse, and the only question Bryce Treggs has to answer for himself is whether he can live with the consequences.