Add Aaron Rodgers to the chorus of voices questioning how roughing the passer is being called during the first two weeks of the NFL season.
One of those calls, against Clay Matthews on Sunday, hurt his team at a critical spot, but Rodgers tried to look beyond just one game. “I’m a traditionalist,” he told reporters Wednesday. “I’ve watched the game and loved the game for a long time, and some of the rules I think help, but some of the rules maybe are going the wrong direction.”
After a season in which no one could figure out what a catch is, the NFL’s big mystery is what constitutes roughing the passer now. The Packers, for instance, have been penalized a league-high four times in two games, including a call on Matthews that baffled Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino, two of the league’s top former officiating men. The NFL defended the call and said it planned to use video of the Matthews’s penalty, which negated an interception that ostensibly would have ended the game with a Packers win in regulation, for teaching. League-wide, there have been 21 flags thrown for roughing the passer in the first two weeks of the season.
“We enjoy the protection below the knee and above the shoulders, but I don’t know many quarterbacks who want those calls. There are very few opportunities in the game for us to show any kind of toughness. We’re not getting hit every play. Hopefully not,” Rodgers said, addressing Matthews’s penalty and one called on Eric Kendricks of the Vikings for a play on Rodgers.
“The one on me, I don’t think that’s roughing the passer either, you know?” Rodgers said. “There’s a goal to limit these hits, but they are pretty obvious when you see them. A guy picking somebody up and full weight on them. What do you say to Clay? His head is out of it, his hand is on the ground, that’s not roughing the passer. Same thing with Kendricks. What do you say to him on that? I didn’t get up off the ground thinking, ‘Where’s the penalty?’ I saw a late flag and couldn’t believe there was a penalty on the play.”
There are plenty of reasons to protect passers, the guys who make offenses go, especially after the number of injuries that took them off the field in 2017. Rodgers was the subject of one new rule after he suffered a broken collarbone last season on a hit by the Vikings' Anthony Barr. Under the rule that now pertains to Rodgers, defensive players are flagged for landing with their full weight on quarterbacks. The call on Matthews, though, was based on a rule that says grabbing the passer from behind the legs, scooping him upward and then sending him to the ground is illegal. Never mind that Matthews didn’t really do that.
According to Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9: “A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as ‘stuffing’ a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball …” Among other things, the technique of grabbing the passer from behind the leg(s), scooping and pulling in an upward motion is considered a foul.”
The bottom line for Rodgers, who is continuing to play through a knee injury, is that “this is still a collision sport and those to me are not penalties, on Clay or Kendricks.”
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