Harbaugh defends chop blocks

The Ravens' penchant for employing chop blocks has caused quite a consternation in Pittsburgh and Nashville.

First, several Steelers players accused the Ravens of illegal chop blocks in their 35-7 victory over Pittsburgh Sunday. According to an article in The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review, those players asserted that the blocks were dangerous and toeing the line of competitive legality.

Steelers nose tackle Casey Hampton specifically named right guard Marshal Yanda, but Yanda declined to comment on the allegations, saying he had to prepare for the Tennessee Titans, the Ravens' next opponent.

But no penalties were called against the Ravens, and as Pro Football Talk pointed out, a chop block is illegal only if the two offensive linemen involved were not lined up next to each other at the snap.

In a report in The Tennessean, Titans defensive coordinator Jerry Gray promised that the team would have something in store if the Ravens used chop blocks on Sunday.

"They're trying to cut you and do those things," Gray said. "You've got to make sure you're doing something that's hopefully going to hurt them, too. You can't just be the recipient of everything. You've got to start doing something that's going to get you back on track and hopefully they'll tone that stuff down when you do something else."

On Friday, Ravens coach John Harbaugh responded to Gray's veiled threat.

"I'm assuming what he's talking about is you counter it," Harbaugh said Friday. "The blocking scheme that's come up this week is one that almost every team in the National Football League runs. We've been running it for years. Some teams do it better than other teams. The block is absolutely legal. It's 100 percent legal, and it's 100 percent ethical, and there is no danger whatsoever in the way the block is being executed because it's in front. An adjacent offensive lineman in a play that's away can cut the next defender. It's the defender's responsibility to not hold the center and keep him from getting up on the linebacker the center's trying to block and expose himself. It's his job to let that guy go and to defend himself. So, when you choose to keep that center off the linebacker, you're choosing to leave yourself vulnerable to being cut in front. So, just play defense, I would say."