Football Zebras
2018 rule changesLook for quicker whistles this season

Look for quicker whistles this season

In trying to keep ball carriers from being blown up this year, the NFL has directed officials to blow an early whistle to help prevent injuries.

The NFL wants officials to sound the whistle and shut down a play when the runner or quarterback is wrapped up. Usually the officials wait until forward progress is clearly stopped before blowing the play dead. This year, the point of emphasis for the officials blow the whistle early.

Many times when the defense wraps up a ball carrier, they will try to blow up the runner if the play is still alive. The defense wants to intimidate the ball carrier with a punishing hit and wants to force a fumble. These are dangerous situations where the defense can injure the runner. 

The whistle will stop the defense from trying to blast the ball loose and the whistle will prevent a runner from churning forward, so it’s a wash.

This is a big change in philosophy for the officials this year. The mantra for at least 40 years has been “slow whistle.” The officials want the ball carrier to get all the yardage they can, and they don’t want the whistle to kill a play and rob the defense of a chance to strip the ball away. 

Not this year. This year, the officials will have to undo decades of ingrained philosophy and blow a quick whistle.

If you think there are quick whistles this year — and if a player was “robbed” of a big play because an official blew the play dead too soon — it’s because the NFL told the officials so.

Image Arizona Cardinals photo

Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz
Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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