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NFL Competition Committee Announces Final Decision on Roughing-the-Passer Rule

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Over the first three weeks of the NFL season, there has been a marked increase in the number of roughing-the-passer penalties, and the flurry of flags has outraged coachesplayers and fans.

Many of the questionable calls have come from officials’ enforcement of a provision barring a defender from landing on a quarterback with his body weight.

But despite the concerns of those who play, coach and watch the game, the league announced Thursday there will be no changes to the wording or enforcement of the rule.

Troy Vincent, executive vice president of football operations for the NFL, released a statement announcing the league’s decision.

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“In reiterating its position on quarterback protection, the committee determined there would be no changes to the point of emphasis approved this spring or to the rule, of which the body weight provision has been in place since 1995,” he said. “To ensure consistency in officiating the rule, the committee clarified techniques that constitute a foul. Video feedback will continue to be be provided throughout the season to coaches, players and officials illustrating clear examples of permissible and impermissible contact on the quarterback.”

Vincent said the NFL’s competition committee sent video to all 32 teams to clarify legal and illegal hits. One of the clips in the video was the hit by the Vikings’ Anthony Barr that broke the collarbone of Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers last season.

Referees have thrown 34 flags for roughing the passer this season, which is more than twice as many as they threw at this point last season.

The biggest reason for that increase in penalties, as well as the biggest complaint, is the rule that defenders are not allowed to land on quarterbacks with their body weight.

Rodgers’ teammate, Clay Matthews, has fallen victim to that rule multiple times, including a play last week against Alex Smith of the Washington Redskins.

That prompted Matthews to call the league “soft” and said it’s nearly impossible to play the game the way refs are officiating it.

Has the NFL gone too far in trying to protect the quarterback?

“Unfortunately this league’s going in a direction I think a lot of people don’t like. I think they’re getting soft,” Matthews said. “The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me who play the game hard.

“Obviously when you’re tackling a guy from the front you’re gonna land on him. I understand the spirit of the rule, I said that weeks prior. But when you have a hit like that, that’s a football play.”

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The NFL, however, maintained the Matthews penalty was the correct call.

Another notable example when the rule came into play was when the Miami Dolphins’ Williams Hayes sacked Derek Carr of the Oakland Raiders last week. Hayes tore his ACL while trying to avoid landing on Carr, and he is now out for the season.

Carr said he would have preferred that Hayes just land on him to avoid injury.

“I wish the guy would have just landed on me instead of tearing his ACL,” Carr said. “For him to tear his ACL, nobody wants that. I don’t want that.”

Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco also questioned the proliferation of roughing-the-passer calls this season.

“Listen, this is football, man. We all sign up to get hit,” Flacco said. “We all sign up (knowing) you might get hurt. It’s a violent sport. It’s meant to be that way.”

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Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009.
Ross Kelly has been a sportswriter since 2009 and previously worked for ESPN, CBS and STATS Inc. A native of Louisiana, Ross now resides in Houston.
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