The NFL’s emphasis on roughing the passer penalties doesn’t seem to be going anywhere soon. Four of the fouls were called during Pittsburgh’s 30-27 victory over Tampa Bay on “Monday Night Football.”
This was one day after Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was hit with a roughing penalty on a sack of Alex Smith for landing on top of the Redskins quarterback. Several Washington players acknowledged they don’t know what else Matthews was supposed to do on what looked like a clean hit. However, he landed on top of Smith with his body weight and that’s the point of emphasis this season.
Redskins safety D.J. Swearinger called it a “horrible rule” that should be taken out.
“It’s going to win and lose games for people,” Swearinger said Monday afternoon. “It’s not fair for defenders. It’s not fair for this league. It’s not fair for football, in general.
“That’s not how you play football. The game wasn’t designed to play tag. The game was designed to hit people. We put on pads to hit people. That’s how the game was made. You disrespect the game of football when you bring all these bull rules. You sign up for this game to be physical. Not to play two-hand touch.”
Swearinger said he’s adjusted his game in recent years to adjust to a bevy of protections made in the name of safety. Some of the rules — and how they’re being interpreted by officials — have caused frustrations. The helmet rule, which penalizes any player for initiating contact with an opponent with the helmet, and roughing the passer, which states a player can’t land on a quarterback with his body weight, have garnered the most attention this season.
The league said the roughing penalty on Matthews on Sunday was the correct call.
Swearinger and other players on both sides of the ball say it’s nearly impossible not to land on top of the quarterback when you’re rushing him at full speed. Swearinger said that in fact, it might be dangerous to the defender to try to adjust his tackling to follow the rule.
“I don’t see no other way you can go full speed, hit a guy and turn your body,” Swearinger said. “You’re going to twist your ankle. You’re going to hurt your shoulder. You’re going to hurt your elbow. You’re going to do something if you do what they ask you to do.”
Everyone understands the need for safety, but Swearinger said he believes the scales have tipped unfairly toward the quarterback and the offensive side of the ball. That’s not an unusual sentiment; many rules over the years have aimed at protecting the players with the ball. He noted that the helmet rule, which is supposed to be applied to all players, doesn’t seemed to be called consistently on ball carriers when they dip their head and lead with their helmet.
“It’s really pathetic,” Swearinger said. “It’s not fair. It’s an offensive league. Something has to change, but what can we say? We’ve got to abide by the rules and that’s all we can do.
“The game happens too fast. It’s a grown man’s game. It’s not a referee’s game. You’ve got to know the game. You’ve got to be able to play the game to be able to put rules out. The game happens too fast, especially with Clay. I don’t know what you’d ask Clay to do. It’s not football.”
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