This year the NFL is cracking down on the excessive movements that quarterbacks are using pre-snap if a clap or leg lift is not immediately followed by a snap. During the preseason, Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray and his back-ups were flagged several times for false start penalties due to this “excessive” movement.
With no explanation during the preseason, the NFL appears to be strictly applying the “quick or abrupt movement” portion of the rule now to quarterbacks who try to initiate a snap with more than just a leg kick. The clap is a staple of college offense snap counts but the NFL appears not to be as keen on the movement.
Rule 7-4-2-Item 4:
A player who is in position to receive the snap in shotgun formation is permitted to shift his feet prior to the snap, but any quick and abrupt movement is a False Start. This includes thrusting his hands forward when there is not a simultaneous snap.
It appears that clapping could be considered to be “thrusting his hands forward” when there is no snap imminent. In the first week of the preseason, Cardinals quarterback Brett Hundley was flagged for the clap once. Murray was flagged twice for 10 total yards in preseason week two against the Raiders for the clap. Hundley was flagged again for two more false starts in preseason week three.
After the Raiders game, Murray said,”To me, it’s like any other hard count. It’s the defense’s job to watch the ball, so it really doesn’t make sense to me. I think we’re trying to fix things right now.”
During the Monday Night Football broadcast, rules analyst and former NFL referee John Parry stated that “Hands are a bit of an issue with the clap, but it’s that quick jerk prior to the clap. They all do move, but it’s got to be rhythmical.”
And it isn’t just the Cardinals.
In the season opening game, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was also flagged for the same abrupt movements. Rodgers appeared to lift his leg twice and clapped furiously for the snap prior to being flagged. It remains unclear what prompted the strict enforcement of the rule but prior to their week three preseason game, Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury gave some insight, stating, “abrupt motion without the clap is what we’ve got to avoid.”