This week, NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino spent considerable time discussing player safety, and helping us understand when that safety might be in jeopardy. Also discussed in the Week 10 officiating video were officiating mechanics, instant replay and what constitutes unsportsmanlike conduct (download video here).
- Fouls on defenseless players are down this season compared to 2013, according to Blandino. After Week 10 in 2013, we had 35 defenseless player penalties while this year, we’ve only had 16. This shows that players and coaches are adjusting to the revised rules, though there are still some issues on the field. More frequently, officials have called blindside blocks: approaching from the back or side by a defensive player with forcible contact in the head and/or neck, that is blocked back toward the blockers end line.
- In the Monday night game in Philadelphia, the Eagles tried to run a play when the line judge was not in position at the time the play snapped. Blandino emphasized that at the top of mind for all officials is player and official safety. When the center snapped the ball, Referee Gene Steratore blew the play dead. Essentially, we had no snap. Although the officials appreciate and work with the up-tempo of the game, they must also ensure each play is safe and fair.
- In Tampa Bay this past weekend, we saw two plays Blandino highlighted in the wrap up. Falcons cornerback Robert Alford attempted to intercept a pass thrown towards Buccaneers receiver Vincent Jackson. Cornerback Dwight Lowery ended up intercepting in the end zone, but was ruled incomplete. Replay looked at Jackson who stepped out of bounds while attempting to catch the pass. If a receiver steps out of bounds then comes back in and touches the ball first without reestablishing himself, the ball is dead by rule.
- Also, after a Buccaneers touchdown, Austin Seferian-Jenkins used the football as a prop during a touchdown celebration, which resulted in an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Players cannot use the ball as a prop to celebrate a touchdown.
- Instant replay was in full force during the game between the Steelers and Jets on Sunday. After the Jets quarterback Michael Vick decided to run with the ball, he slid down while the ball was coming out of his possession. Steelers defensive end Cameron Heyward picked up the ball once it was loose. Because video evidence has to show indisputable evidence that the ball became loose before any body part touched the ground, which is does not, the call remained as it was determined on field. There also is not a hit on a defenseless player, because the quarterback is treated as a runner — and loses the quarterback protections — when he runs the ball.