It is now week 3 of the NFL season and we’re starting to get a clearer picture of what the officials are looking for with quarterbacks who clap for the snap vice use an audible call out or a leg lift. To recap, this became an issue when the Arizona Cardinals quarterbacks were all flagged multiple times for the clap snap under what’s considered a “quick and abrupt” movement before the snap because it is considered an “excessive” movement if the ball is not immediately snapped.
By Weeks 1 and 2, more quarterbacks have been flagged for the same rule, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Colts quarterback Jacoby Brissett. Brissett was flagged twice in a week two game against the Titans, once in the second quarter, and once in the third quarter, both for the rapid hand clap to get the center’s attention as the play clock wound down.
Initially, sources have told Football Zebras that senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron established that a snap must be immediate after the quarterback initiates a clap signal. And it appears that this guidance has reached the teams who specifically ask about the clap snap. Cardinals coach Kliff Kingsbury had been seeking that information since day one of the preseason when his quarterbacks started getting flagged for excessive movement.
As you can see in the clips above, he initiates the snap verbally with no hand clap in home games, and initiates the snap with a clap during away games. So it would seem to indicate that the league has told someone something about how they want this officiated and interpreted.
Now, sources are indicating that the league is backing off the immediate snap after the clap requirement and leaving it up to each individual referee once again to interpret “quick and abrupt.” It’s essentially a judgement call by the official if there is no snap if it is clear that he is signalling to the offensive line.
Brissett was flagged twice by referee Clete Blakeman in the same game for the abrupt hand clapping, as seen in the clips above. The Colts were told by the league office that it should not have been a foul, calling into question exactly what information the teams and officials are being given in regards to when it is or is not a false start. Fingers are pointed in the direction of officials, but the question must also be asked: with contradictory directives this early in the season, are officiating supervisors and Riveron to blame as well?
Whatever the case may be, there is inconsistency in the rule application and it’s not at all clear why a given team’s quarterback would initiate the multiple hand clap if the league-wide guidance is that the snap must initiate immediately.