Week 5: Cardinals at Broncos
Broncos tight end Julius Thomas was flagged for a 15-yard illegal chop block on Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell. Campbell suffered a strained MCL and will be out three to four weeks. His coach, Bruce Arians, called it “the dirtiest play I’ve seen in the National Football League” and said that Thomas should be disciplined by the league more than the base $8,268 fine.
But was this actually a chop block?
The definition of a chop block is when two offensive players combine to engage a defensive player high while blocking him below the waist. Usually, it is the high block first, but on passing plays, a reverse chop is also a foul. From the video of the play, Campbell does not appear to be engaged in a block with offensive lineman Ryan Clady when he is chopped by Thomas. (The low blocker is the one who is charged with the foul.)
However, it is also illegal to assume a pass-blocking posture in place of the high block, while the defensive player is chopped low. In a labyrinthine definition, Rule 12-2-3 calls this a lure chop block, with the blockers designated A1 and A2:
[On forward passes and kicking plays,] A1 chops a defensive player while A2 confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player (a “lure”).
This means an offensive lineman cannot draw the defensive lineman forward to pursue the quarterback into the path of the low block. (The play need not be a coordinated effort by the offensive linemen to be a foul.) This also applies if the offensive lineman appears to pass block, but, according to the rule, “the play ultimately becomes a run.”
In this case, Clady did draw Campbell across the line, then Thomas, deliberately or not, chopped Campbell low. Judging by the severity of the injury, it is clear why the lure chop block is an addition to the standard chop block rule.