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2021 Preseason

Low-key low-block foul debuts in preseason

Chiefs DB Will Parks unwittingly provided the first case study of a pervasive new rule governing low blocks.



Kansas City Chiefs defensive back Will Parks unwittingly provided the first case study of a pervasive new rule governing low blocks.

It was an understated rules change, although teams were made aware of the intent of the new rule in March. A video was distributed to all the teams to get them on board with the new enforcement. Apparently, there was still little support for the rule, as it was tabled for later consideration during the regular owners meetings, and finally voted during their spring meetings.

In this case, the 6-foot-1, 194-pound Parks has to find a different way to engage a 6-foot-9, 275-pound lineman. As our own Rich Madrid pointed out, the new rule changes blocking techniques significantly on both sides of the ball, and could cost players a roster spot.

The new rule essentially adds a foul to any open-field block below the waist by the offense or defense. The “open field” will be any area outside of a tight-end box, extending 2 yards outside of the traditional tackle positions, 5 yards upfield, and 5 yards downfield. Existing low block fouls within that tight-end box will continue to be enforced, but no new blocks will be prohibited.

A ball carrier or a receiver in the process of making a catch may be tackled low, as long as it is not otherwise a standard unnecessary roughness foul, such as a use-of-the-helmet hit.

Football Zebras produced a rules school video on the new low-block foul.

One additional note about the enforcement of this particular play: since the offense had a simple 5-yard foul and the defense had a major 15-yard foul, by rule the 15-yard foul cancels out the 5-yarder. This rule is the rarely seen “15 vs. 5 enforcement” which prevents major fouls from just being offset by a minor infraction by the opponent.

Ben Austro is the editor and founder of Football Zebras and the author of So You Think You Know Football?: The Armchair Ref's Guide to the Official Rules (on sale now)

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