Redskins use officiating visit to get option-play clarifications

Ed Hochuli, Robert Griffin III

Referee Ed Hochuli, left, helps up quarterback Robert Griffin III during the third quarter of a Redskins-Eagles game last December. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

RICHMOND — NFL game officials visited the Washington Redskins’ training camp Thursday and Friday. The officials met with Redskins players and coaches Thursday night, giving a video presentation on rule changes for the 2013 season and answering questions.

Such training camp visits are made league-wide annually by the officials. In the Redskins’ case, there was particular interest during this visit in how the officials will handle hits made on quarterbacks after they get rid of the ball on option plays.

While making a rule-change presentation to media members Friday, referee Gene Steratore said officials will be looking for a quarterback to make a “definitive show” that he no longer has the ball if a penalty is to be called on a defender for a hit on the quarterback in the first step or two after getting rid of the ball.

“The moment that [the quarterback] releases that ball, he has to present to the defense as quickly as he possibly can that he’s no longer in the play,” Steratore said.

If a quarterback continues to carry out a fake in an attempt to make defenders believe he still has the ball, Steratore said, that quarterback is subject to being hit legally.

“I would think we’d see a little more definition from [the quarterbacks]. … I would think we would see themselves declare themselves out of the play,” Steratore said.

The Redskins are particularly sensitive to the issue, with quarterback Robert Griffin III returning from knee surgery in January. The Redskins and other teams made extensive use of option plays with great success last season, and some observers have said they believe that NFL defenses will emphasize hitting quarterbacks as often as possible on such plays this season.

The Redskins complained at times last season about some of the hits absorbed by Griffin on option plays. Griffin took to sometimes raising his hands after getting rid of the ball on option plays, signaling to defenders — and the officials — that he no longer had the ball and couldn’t be hit legally. Steratore said the officials are attempting to make clear to teams and quarterbacks what is expected on such plays.

“As this is evolving right now … we’re using this as a point of emphasis and trying to get that point relayed to them,” Steratore said.

The officiating presentation includes explanations of this season’s major rule changes, including the elimination of the tuck rule and the new prohibition on a ball carrier lowering his head and using the crown of his helmet to deliver a forcible blow to a defender. The video also emphasizes the NFL’s new requirement that players wear knee and thigh pads during games.

According to the video, the league’s points of emphasis for officials this season include penalizing players for late hits on opponents who are on the ground, standing around a pile of players or being held up by other players; penalizing ball carriers for illegally grabbing a defender’s face mask and not immediately releasing it; and penalizing players for taunting for spiking or spinning the ball at an opponent. Redskins wide receiver Pierre Garcon is shown on the video spinning the ball on the ground after a catch.

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What’s ahead:

● Saturday’s Fan Appreciation Day begins at noon. If you’re headed to Richmond, check our our guide to training camp for tips on getting autographs, where to park and things to do after the session is over. The Redskins are off on Sunday.

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