Dean Blandino released the week 8 officiating video (see the bottom of this post).
Blandino spoke at length about quarterback hits. This was the subject of much scrutiny from Panthers quarterback Cam Newton in his postgame press conference last weekend. When a quarterback is inside the pocket, tackle to tackle, he gets maximum protection and the legal target area for a defender is below the neck and above the knee. Within that area the defender cannot use the crown of his helmet to make contact. The quarterback in a passing posture is also protected from late hits where the defender takes more than one step and hits him after the ball is thrown. However, a hit is legal below the knees if the only the defender’s arms make contact.
Blandino added: “We’ve addressed this with our referees. We do this every week. We show them what are legal hits and what are illegal hits and continue to address this because this is a player safety issue.”
When the quarterback leaves the pocket, he loses certain protections. If the quarterback scrambles to throw outside that tackle box, he loses the low hit protection with a defender in “chase mode” and the quarterback moving away from him as the defender has to be able to go low to tackle the quarterback. A quarterback also loses the one-step protection rule but is protected from being taken down unnecessarily or unusually late after he throws the ball.
“We see this (legal hits) week in and week out and we catalog these plays and we share them the clubs so they can show their players examples of legal hits and how you can tackle the quarterback.”
If the quarterback becomes a runner, he loses the special protections afforded to passers. If he dives head first, he can be contacted the way runners are contacted, including in the head or neck area. If he slides early enough and before contact is imminent, he gains the special protection afforded by a sliding runner.
Blandino again touched on the subject of medical timeouts. The ATC spotter upstairs can call down and stop the game to have a player evaluated if they are hit in the head or neck area. Medical staff will evaluate the player and the player will have sit out for one play before he can return. If he passes the sideline test, he can return once he’s cleared.
Also addressed was the hands-to-the-face penalty for players on the outside. The hands to the face standard is much lower for players on the outside. Any contact that is not incidental is a foul if it takes the receiver out of his route, disrupts the timing, and creates an unfair advantage. The same applies to the receiver if he uses his hands in a similar to beat a defensive back off the line.
Lastly, Blandino covered legal and illegal forward passes under one minute left in the half. An illegal forward pass under a minute left in the half carries with it a 10-second runoff off the clock, the theory being that the quarterback dumped the ball off beyond the line to conserve time. The defensive team can choose to accept or not the 10-second runoff because they may get the ball back and want as much time as possible. However, any forward pass is reviewable to determine if it is legal or not. So, if the penalty is reversed, there is an automatic 10-second runoff due to the replay reversal of a stopped clock (due to penalty flag) to a running clock (as if the flag was never thrown). This runoff is applied as it’s impossible for offense to get set at the very instant the clock stopped for a review. The offense can choose a runoff or take a timeout to stop the clock. The defense cannot decline a runoff that is assessed in a reversal — only runoffs imposed by an offensive penalty may be declined.