Each offseason NFL rule-makers spend time trying to decide what rules they are going to change or tweak in order to make the sport safer. The problem is these decisions are made in meeting rooms with the plays in question being slowed down and scrutinized.
How much consideration is given to the fact that the expectation is these calls can be made by an official in a bang-bang situation? The answer is not much. Yet, each year more and more rules and points of emphasis come along.
One of the latest was revealed on Thursday at the Vikings’ practice facility in Eagan, when referee Pete Morelli met with reporters and said the hit Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr put on Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers in Week 6 of last season now will be a 15-yard penalty. Rodgers broke his collarbone on the play, ruining his season and the Packers’ season along with it.
The desire to protect Rodgers, one of the NFL’s best quarterbacks, makes sense, but Morelli’s explanation was nearly comical considering how difficult it will be to enforce the rule in real time.
“Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down on (the quarterback),” Morelli said. “The Aaron Rodgers (hit) would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of the pocket, established and all that. But if he’s running, that’s not the same.”
So let’s see if we have this right. If Rodgers, or any quarterback, is rolling out of the pocket and makes a throw, the defender can hit him as he releases the ball but the defender can not land on the quarterback with his full weight or its a 15-yard penalty. But if the defender puts some of his weight on the quarterback, just not all, that’s not a penalty.
Pro Football Talk offered this explanation in noting the slight change: The NFL rulebook states that “when tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down OR land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.” In 2017, the rulebook read that a player must not “unnecessarily or violently throw him down AND land on top of him.”
“If you roll out and get set up, you’re still a passer,” Morelli said. “But if you’re rolling out and throwing and a guy’s chasing you and tackles you, you’re not defenseless. They get two steps and they can tackle you. Becoming defenseless is setting up again outside the pocket.”
And we wonder why respected veteran officials are leaving the NFL?
This doesn’t even address the challenge that officials are going to face this season when attempting to properly enforce the league’s new use of helmet rule that is sure to cause controversy and will lead to ejections.