Members of the NFL’s rulemaking competition committee met via conference call Wednesday night to discuss the enforcement of roughing-the-passer guidelines this season, the league announced Thursday, but no specific change to the rule was made.
What the league did do was release a video showing legal and illegal hits on quarterbacks, part of what people close to the deliberations described this week as an attempt by committee members to change how the rule is being applied by the on-field officials.
“In reiterating its position on quarterback protection, the committee determined there would be no changes to the point of emphasis approved this spring or to the rule, of which the body weight provision has been in place since 1995,” Troy Vincent, the NFL’s executive vice president of football operations, said in a written statement.
“To ensure consistency in officiating the rule, the committee clarified techniques that constitute a foul. Video feedback will continue to be provided throughout the season to coaches, players and officials illustrating clear examples of permissible and impermissible contact on the quarterback.”
The video released Thursday by the league is narrated by Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, and shows hits deemed legal and illegal by the league. The video does not show the two hits by Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, on quarterbacks Kirk Cousins of the Minnesota Vikings and Alex Smith of the Washington Redskins, that resulted in controversial penalties over the past two weeks.
It does show last season’s hit by Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers that injured Rodgers. That hit is shown as an example of an illegal hit.
The hit on Rodgers prompted the competition committee to issue a point of emphasis to officials for this season, stressing that they should penalize a hit when a defender lands on the quarterback with most or all of his body weight.
Roughing-the-passer calls are up sharply this season, to the point that Matthews and others have said the league has gone too far. According to multiple people familiar with the situation, there is strong sentiment on the competition committee that the rule is not being applied properly. The call made on the hit by Matthews on Cousins was particularly alarming to some committee members, who believe that Matthews should not have been penalized.
The committee wants to see the rule applied differently and plans to use the officiating videos to attempt to modify the on-field enforcement of the rule, according to those people with knowledge of the deliberations.
The committee met via conference call during the preseason after there were a large number of calls made during the first half of the preseason under the league’s new helmet-hitting rule. The committee did not change the rule, which makes it a penalty for a player to lower his head and use his helmet to deliver a hit, but clarified that inadvertent or incidental contact should not result in a penalty. The number of penalties called under the rule declined sharply thereafter.
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