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NFL Competition Committee: No changes to roughing the passer rule

NFL Competition Committee: Roughing the passer rule stays as is.



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The NFL Competition Committee, reportedly “uncomfortable” over the high number of unnecessary roughness calls, met today to discuss the rule, but decided to leave their interpretation unchanged. They did address the enforcement of that interpretation. Realistically, this was the last chance for the committee to change anything related to the rule in the middle of the season.

The training tape says that they want the pass rusher to turn the quarterback and take him to the ground in such a way that the quarterback and defender land almost side by side. 

Note that the training take did not include any Clay Matthews footage –  fouls the NFL supported and said it would use as examples to train players, coaches, and officials. That means the NFL, after reviewing the game tape, thinks the Matthews’ fouls are good calls, even though it was avoided in this video.

Also note that the footage included a hit by Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Clay Ford on Ben Roethlishberger where Ford rolled off Big Ben to lessen contact. The “over-the-top” maneuver that defensive players employ appears to be a foul.

There is a very real contention this new rule interpretation puts the defender in more danger, as witnessed when William Hayes is now moved to the Dolphins’ injured reserve list.

This past offseason, the NFL Competition Committee issued a “point of emphasis” to call this type of roughing the passer call tightly. A point of emphasis isn’t a new rule. It is an advisory from rules-makers that a certain foul or violation has been on the increase and the memo instructs the officials to be vigilant for the point of emphasis and throw the flag.

At the heart of the matter is decades old rule, prohibiting defenders from “punishing the quarterback with their weight.” Perhaps the most infamous moment of this rule was the 2001 AFC Championship game where Tony Siragusa knocked Rich Gannon out of the game (video).

So here we are. The Competition Committee may have realized they over-cooked their own goose in its roughing the passer point of emphasis, but they also realize, especially with bye weeks coming up, they must insure all teams play an equal amount of games under a new interpretation.  Now, the earliest the NFL could address this issue will be in the playoffs when all post-season teams are reset to 0-0 — similar to how the catch rule (particularly in replay) loosened up in the playoffs.

Sadly, this year’s roughing the passer rule is taking on the infamy of last year’s catch rule.

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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