- The Washington Times
Monday, December 6, 2021

LAS VEGAS — A day after Washington won a fourth-straight game, the team got some better-than-expected injury news Monday when an initial MRI test revealed tight end Logan Thomas did not suffer a torn MCL as officials originally feared.
But that hasn’t softened the blow over what many fans of the Burgundy and Gold saw as a dirty play by the Raiders defender who went low to take out Thomas’ legs.

Thomas, after all, could still miss the rest of the season depending on how long it takes for him to recover from the knee injury he suffered in Sunday’s 17-15 win over the Las Vegas Raiders. Coach Ron Rivera said Thomas’ MRI showed there is “some damage” to his knee, adding the tight end will also need additional tests to confirm his ACL isn’t torn.

With 10 minutes left in the game, Raiders defensive end Yannick Ngakoue chopped at Thomas’ legs during a run play. Ngakoue went low as Thomas went to block — leading fans to accuse the defensive end of playing dirty. “These dirty plays should not go without consequences!” one fan tweeted.

Rivera was more diplomatic in his answer when asked about the hit.

“I thought the play was avoidable,” Rivera said. “It was unfortunate that the hit occurred, and it was low. As a defender you’d like to see him use his hands upon impact. I mean, it’s an unfortunate play, but for the most part, as far as I was concerned, I just felt it was something that was avoidable.”

Ngakoue’s hit did not draw a flag.

Chris Long, a former defensive end, defended the play — tweeting Ngakoue’s hit was a “gray area.” He wrote tight ends regularly make similar types of cuts “and no one cared.” Long said if the hit is banned, NFL officials should make sure the rule is enforced both ways.
“Out of play?” Long tweeted. “Trust me, hard to tell.”

If Thomas does have to miss extensive time, that would be a serious blow to Washington’s offense. Thomas was in his second game back after missing six contests with a hamstring. And since his return, the 6-foot-6 tight end had been productive. Against the Raiders, Thomas had three catches for 48 yards and a touchdown.

His score came on a spectacular one-handed grab on a play-action throw from quarterback Taylor Heinicke.

Thomas has served as a threat for Washington in the red zone — all nine of his touchdowns have come in that area since he signed a two-year deal last offseason. The team extended Thomas to a three-year, $24 million deal in August.

The NFL has taken measures in recent seasons to outlaw hits that have been deemed especially dangerous. This past offseason, the league changed the rules to forbid blocks below the waist in most situations.

The primary exception is when the block occurs in the “tight end box” — defined as the area “two yards outside of the normal tackle position and extends five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage,” according to the league.

Under that definition, Thomas appeared to be in the tight end box when Ngakoue hit him.

While Washington fans were unhappy with Ngakoue, Raiders running back Kenyan Drake took issue with a hit in Sunday’s game that led to him suffering a season-ending ankle injury.

On Twitter, Drake posted a video of him being tackled by Washington’s Daniel Wise — calling for the NFL to take action.

“Graphic Video Warning: The #NFL needs to look at this specific style of tackling,” Drake wrote. “They are throwing flags for taunting and protecting [quarterbacks] from getting touched but this is my 2nd straight season being injured by a guy pulling me back and using his body weight to roll up my legs.”

Drake had to be carted off the field for the injury. Thomas, on the other hand, walked off under his own power with Washington’s training staff accompanying him to the locker room.

“We’re still waiting on a little bit more of an evaluation, but it is a little bit more positive than we were anticipating,” Rivera said.

• Matthew Paras can be reached at mparas@washingtontimes.com.

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