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Lions coach Dan Campbell defends S Kerby Joseph after controversial hit: 'That's how we play football here'

The Detroit Lions have the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in front of them, but there was still some discussion of their previous game Wednesday.

Lions head coach Dan Campbell addressed the controversy around safety Kerby Joseph, who received criticism this week over a low hit that left Los Angeles Rams tight end Tyler Higbee with a torn ACL and MCL.

The play saw Joseph lower his helmet and launch it into Higbee's legs, causing his right knee to bend in a grotesque manner:

The hit ignited a wave of criticism from the Rams and other corners of the football world, most notably from Rams quarterback Matthew Stafford. Video released Wednesday showed Stafford confronting Joseph immediately after the play, saying "You're dirty as f*** and you know it ... It's been on tape, I've seen it."

Fans dredged up multiple questionable hits by Joseph, a second-year player out of Illinois. There was a similar hit that saw similar results against Minnesota Vikings tight end T.J. Hockenson, a former Lion. There was a hip-drop tackle, another controversial type of hit, on Rams star rookie Puka Nacua. There was Joseph running right into the legs of Rams offensive lineman Steve Avila.

When asked about Joseph's developing reputation and how he has counseled the young player, Campbell defended Joseph's style of play:

“That’s how we play football here. Just keep your head up, see what you hit. That will always be what I tell Kerby. Just keep your eyes up so you don't hit on the crown of your helmet. You hit a spine, mess yourself up there. Just see what you hit.

He’s going for the thigh board and staying away from the head. That’s how we play defense here. We're not dirty. We hit."

It should be noted that Joseph's helmet was absolutely facing down as he approached Higbee's legs.

DETROIT, MICHIGAN - JANUARY 14: Tyler Higbee #89 of the Los Angeles Rams is hit by Kerby Joseph #31 of the Detroit Lions during the second half in the NFC Wild Card Playoffs at Ford Field on January 14, 2024 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
"Just keep your eyes up so you don't hit on the crown of your helmet." (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images) (Gregory Shamus via Getty Images)

Joseph defended his play as well after Sunday's game, saying he had no intention of hurting Higbee while pronouncing himself "a mf dog since I came out my mama womb."

It seems likely the Tampa Bay Buccaneers' skill players will be on high alert when they face the Lions in the divisional round. Detroit's other starting safety, C.J. Gardner-Johnson, has already made some headlines with trash talk toward Bucs quarterback Baker Mayfield, who nabbed an early win with his response.

Buccaneers-Lions is scheduled for 3 p.m. ET Sunday (NBC, Peacock).