Editor's note: Updated with comments from Julius Thomas.
In the third quarter of Denver's 41-20 victory over Arizona, offensive tackle Ryan Clady was flagged for a personal foul, a chop block against Cardinals DE Calais Campbell.
But it wasn't Clady who tackled Campbell at the knees; it was tight end Julius Thomas, in a play that Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called "the dirtiest play I've ever seen." It sounded like Arians wanted to see a suspension for Thomas.
"Calais has an MCL (injury). I’ve been coaching for 37 years and it’s the dirtiest play I’ve ever seen in the National Football League," Arians said. "It was a flat chop block that put him out of the game. I’ve never see anything like it. I know [Broncos Coach] John Fox and he’s a great coach and a great guy. Somebody has got to answer to that. A fine isn’t going do it when he’s (Campbell) going to miss three or four weeks on a blatant chop block."
As you can see below, Campbell prepared to engage Clady high when Thomas dove low at Campbell's knee. There's no doubt this is a high-low cut block and a violation straight out of the NFL rulebook - even though Clady hadn't yet engaged, he "lured" Campbell into a high-block, which falls under the chop block description.
It was a costly penalty for the Broncos; it negated a 77-yard touchdown pass from Peyton Manning to Demaryius Thomas.
Arians wasn't the only person incensed by the block; both cornerback Patrick Peterson and wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald also took offense to the hit on Campbell.
"They’ll fine the guy, but what do we get? We don’t get anything," said Peterson. "We lose our guy for two-to-three weeks, maybe four."
Larry Fitzgerald on the Thomas chop block that took out Calais Campbell: "It was bull****!— Craig Morgan (@cmorganfoxaz) October 5, 2014
Neither Broncos coach John Fox
nor Julius Thomas nor Ryan Clady were asked about the play after the game, but we expect they'll be asked about it Monday when they meet the press.
Update: Julius Thomas commented as he left the locker room, courtesy of Linday Jones and USA Today --
"I guarantee that being dirty is not a part of my game, and to intentionally hurt somebody is not something I would ever do," Thomas said.
Thomas said he sought out Arizona cornerback Antonio Cromartie after the game to deliver an apology to Campbell.
We'll have to wait and see if Thomas or Clady are fined for this block. Anything worse, like a suspension, would come as a surprise.
My take: I don't know if Thomas' hit was "dirty," but I choose to think it wasn't. I don't think Thomas had any malice toward Campbell when he dove for the block - Julius Thomas just sucks at blocking, and it was probably a miscommunication. But it's Thomas' responsibility to know his assignment and not put another player at risk. I'm not proud of the Broncos here.
What do you think? Was it a dirty hit?
Thanks to SB Nation for the GIF and Fitzgerald comment.