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NFL attempts to clarify the defenseless player rules

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After a personal foul penalty on Monday night led to a high-profile media tiff, the NFL has stepped in to attempt to clarify what, exactly, the term “defenseless player” means.

The personal foul was called on Falcons linebacker Curtis Lofton, and it left ESPN commentator Jon Gruden harshly criticizing the officiating crew, asking what Lofton was supposed to do to play defense while avoiding contact with a defenseless receiver. Gruden’s criticism had former NFL head of officiating and current FOX analyst Mike Pereira steamed.

“Nobody likes the rule but that was helmet to helmet contact and the NFL wants that called regardless of what Gruden says,” Pereira wrote in a series of Twitter messages ripping Gruden. “People ask me what was he supposed to do. He was supposed to hit him with his shoulder in the chest area or below. Most are doing that. He announced hitting a defenseless player. He was defenseless and u can hit him in the head or neck area with your helmet, shoulder, forearm.”

Today the NFL’s communications department attempted to clear things up, with e-mails to the media and Twitter messages pointing to the exact wording of the rules regarding defenseless players.

The relevant portion of the rule is:

“It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.
(a) Players in a defenseless posture are: [. . .]
(2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player;
[. . .]
(b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:
(1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him; and
(2) Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.”

Hits on defenseless players have become like Rorschach tests: The way observers react to them tells you more about the observers than it does about the hits. But if we’re going to react to the hits at all, we should at least know what the rules say. It’s smart for the NFL to continue to make the rules widely available, even though we all know this wasn’t the last time two observers of the same hit will sharply disagree about whether it should have been a penalty.

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88 Responses to “NFL attempts to clarify the defenseless player rules”
  1. obxastronaut says: Dec 27, 2011 3:34 PM

    Football needs a new commissioner and a new rules committee, now.

  2. thingamajig says: Dec 27, 2011 3:35 PM

    The NFL Rule Book is getting to be heavier and more complicated than the IRS Tax Code Book.

  3. dachozen1 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:37 PM

    This shhhh cray!!

  4. ianoble says: Dec 27, 2011 3:37 PM

    The officials need to do a better job of explaining why it was a penalty. Last night all he said was “defenseless receiver”, not a hit to the head of a defenseless receiver.

  5. vikescry1 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:38 PM

    what about the saints player that drove his helmet into a falcons spine? look it’s football, and i undrstand there trying to protect players. but there inconsistent and making it into a s i s s y league.

  6. lapsncaps says: Dec 27, 2011 3:38 PM

    (2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player

    ______________________________________

    That sounds awfully like flag football to me…oh wait, they are on their way to actually become flag football.

  7. FinFan68 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:38 PM

    Please just get rid of the “defenseless player” crap and just make it illegal to go after another player’s head at any time or use the helmet as a weapon (spearing).

    Most of the concussions are caused by the head hitting the ground but the big hits get the press whether they were legal or not. NFL needs to bring back some common sense

  8. thefnlimit says: Dec 27, 2011 3:39 PM

    Gruden is an idiot but these rules are ridiculous. So a defensive player is supposed to wait until the defenseless player becomes a runner to make contact? So forget about momentum, forget about the defense having a moment to get the advantage, forget beating the offensive player to the ball….just let them get it, set up, and prepare to make a move. Sucks.

  9. Kya_Tropic_Fan says: Dec 27, 2011 3:41 PM

    I was unfortunately unable to see the play in question, so I cant exactly comment on it, but, with that being said, I dont understand how there is confusion with regard to defensive players hitting helmet to helmet. If a defensive player drives his shoulder into the offensive players ribs/hips/abdomen area, they will never have to pray that the ref doesnt throw the flag. When you go high against a player (“defenseless” or not) you are giving the official an opportunity to make a call that goes against you, and hurts your team. Go low, aim for the players hips and you wont get a flag. Simple as that. Not to mention that I am sick and tired of watching players go for a knock out blow only to bounce off, and the ball carrier gets 20+ extra yards. Hit him in the abdomen, wrap him up, and if you cant take him down, the rest of the defense will be there soon enough. I would take a great tackling defensive player over a defensive player looking for the knock out any day. Maybe that is just me. But the risk/reward on a big hit just doesnt seem worth it. Too many defenses give up a first down on 3rd and long because they went for the knock out and bounced off…

  10. charmcity207 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:41 PM

    Mike Pereira is a tool.

  11. cmr123 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:42 PM

    Per John Clayton: Starting NEXT WEEK

    If a player so much as gives another player a dirty look or coughs in anothers direction it is 15 yards. PERIOD

    AS IT SHOULD BE

    DONT THINK THE STUPID RULES DIDNT HAVE ANYTHING TO DO WITH THE RECORD BEING BROKEN DO YOU.

  12. entersandman42ny says: Dec 27, 2011 3:42 PM

    The problem is that they call penalties for hits on a defenseless receiver even when contact to the helmet DOES NOT occur. Football is a contact sport and im all for eliminating helmet to helmet hits and concussion, but sometimes these hits can be unavoidable when a receiver or quarterback drops their head.

  13. earthtopft says: Dec 27, 2011 3:42 PM

    Gruden is a moron. The refs need to lend the guys in the broadcast booth a flag to stuff in his stupid mouth when he starts to pop off.

  14. cletusvandam says: Dec 27, 2011 3:43 PM

    There was absolutely nothing wrong with that hit. I mean it’s almost like you have to let the receiver catch the ball and start running before you tackle him anymore.
    Tackles where the defender lowers his head, or spears the ball carrier with the helmet, or just headhunts like James Harrison does should be called. Incidental stuff like this is overkill.

  15. db105 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:44 PM

    Are defensive backs suppose to let receivers catch and secure the ball first before the are allowed to make contact? How about a pass plays in the endzone? If a receiver has possession in the endzone it’s a TD. This is a cheap way for the NFL to enhance scoring. The NFL is becoming the NBA with pads.

  16. jakek2 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:45 PM

    “It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact. . . ”

    The lawyer in me says that all contact is NECESSARY. Therefore, the rule itself is unenforceable!

  17. bigjd says: Dec 27, 2011 3:46 PM

    These calls affect the momentum of the game way too much. They need to put the game back into the players hands and not the referees. The refs aren’t even be consistent with these calls.

  18. alonzo9mg says: Dec 27, 2011 3:46 PM

    Good lord, basketball started on Sunday, can all these females please go back to that sport and leave the men to theirs?

  19. dionoil says: Dec 27, 2011 3:47 PM

    If nobody likes the rule, why not get rid of it?

  20. steelerhypocrite says: Dec 27, 2011 3:47 PM

    The biggest issue I have, is that the league never admits a mistake…but then they get all upset when the players do the same thing.

  21. radiofriendly420 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:47 PM

    Well someone tell Mike Pereira that fans are steamed too. We’re sick of these ridiculous rules ruining the game.

    One second you just saw your defense make an awesome play.

    The next second it’s first down for the other team and you’re wondering why the hell you even watch this sport anymore.

    One by one, fans will find this game more and more ridiculous. One by one fans will quit watching this game because they will ask themselves – “How much do I really like flag football?”

  22. dchuwo says: Dec 27, 2011 3:47 PM

    I think some of the calls, mainly on QB’s, can go way too far but I don’t think, overall, it has lessened my love for the NFL. If it has ruined yours, quit complaining and don’t watch it. The NFL has to do this. Two reasons. First, is liability. Just last week there was announcement of a new lawsuit filed by former players who say they have lasting effects from concussions suffered while in the NFL. The NFL can no longer afford to turn a blind eye to this and hide behind, “it’s part of the game.” Like it or not, the NFL has to make it look like it’s doing something. Second, I have reviewed the hit by Harrison on McCoy several times and there is nothing wrong with trying to eliminate those types of hits. Harrison could have hit McCoy anywhere but he chose to lead with the crown of his helmet right into McCoy’s head. Taking that out of football does not make me think any less of football or the NFL.

  23. illiniftw says: Dec 27, 2011 3:48 PM

    I know you can define a defenseless player in a rule book but the longer a rule is, the harder it probably is to remember it while running full speed. All of the random exceptions make it even worse!

    If the NFL wants to keep people from getting hit in the head, then make the rule “Don’t hit any player in the head ever.” Then it is cut and dry and easy to call. When they add all the language about running QB, QB in pocket, and all the other crap it just confuses everyone. Even the refs seem like they have no idea WTF to call sometimes!

  24. godofwine330 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:48 PM

    This needs clarification because so many officiating crews get it wrong. I quote Wise Solomon Wilcots again, “If you hit a receiver in anywhere below the neck area he is fair game. If your head hits his head then there will be and should be a penalty. But your neck and below hitting him from the neck down should be no call. What are you supposed to do…wait for him to catch it? No. Your job as a DB, linebacker is to dislodge the ball from the man, and hitting a receiver from the neck down even if he is jumping in the air is and should be perfectly legal, but if you hit his head there should be a penalty.”

    I paraphrased, but that is pretty much it. The problem is, if the refs hear a “clack” they think helmet to helmet when it could be shoulder pads or the defensive player’s helmet hitting the receiver’s pads and a penalty is called when there shouldn’t be.

  25. blaz0037 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:48 PM

    so was it because he was a defenseless reciever or because it was helmet to helmet?

    Still not clear.

  26. jakek2 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:48 PM

    “A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself…”

    Here’s yet ANOTHER problem with this dumb rule. A receiver will ALWAYS have “time” to protect himself if he worries about the defender FIRST instead of the ball!

  27. thetruth619 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:49 PM

    Ridiculous. The calls are so inconsistent. That’s why players are so frustrated. They have no idea what to do. It seems like calls get made when the WR gets hit hard and drops the ball. I can’t count the amount of times I’ve seen a ”defenseless” receiver get hit but hold onto the ball….and no call. Or, a ”defenseless” receiver get hit…but not that hard, so there’s no call. So now we’re regulating how hard a defensive player can hit an offensive player?? All of this, and has anyone seen a decrease in hard hits anyways?? No. Just a increase in penalties and fines. A QB used to have to make sure not to lead his receiver into a vicious hit. Now they can be more careless, because a flag will come. The NFL needs to get their sh!t together, and Goodell needs to go.

  28. panthers34 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:50 PM

    That Saint’s receiver had both feet on the ground! Come on NFL, don’t even try to justify that.

  29. tmcb7 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:51 PM

    Can the NFL please clarify the call by Jeff Triplette last night when he said:
    “There is no penalty for holding. The player was shedding the tackler on a screen play.”

    Oh, and the play was not a screen pass and the offensive lineman tackled the defensive lineman in the endzone while Drew Brees was running to the right…
    Please clarify that!
    and while you’re at it, please clarify how Jeff Triplette and his crew are still officiating in the NFL. By far the worst crew ever… and they are put on the Falcons/Saints MNF game?

  30. waitingguilty says: Dec 27, 2011 3:52 PM

    I’m all for curbing concussions, but the NFL (Led by Goodell) has put itself in a position where they are basically going to need to revise rules and explain themselves on a weekly basis.

    You can’t legislate and micro-manage every scenario like they are attempting to do.

    Also, how Jeff Triplette and his crew are still employed, much less assigned to a high profile MNF game is beyond me.

    In a league replete with terrible officitaing he is by far the worst and gets MNF?

    Huh?

  31. zaggs says: Dec 27, 2011 3:53 PM

    Mike Pereira is a tool. I remember this past weekend during Jets/Giants seeing that idiot desperately trying to lie his way about how Kerley’s knee must at some point hit the turf. Except the replay never showed that, but a jets loss is not what the NFL wanted so there was Mike to stick up for the horrible call.
    Plus it was Triplette who just sucks.
    Not to mention on Julio Jones’s TD he was hit in the head with a shoulder and no call.

  32. edukator4 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:54 PM

    receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner

    so a defender has to wait to hit pass catchers? i understand the hit to the head, dont like it but i get it. but this implies every defender must wait for pass catcher to catch a ball get feet down and be prepared to start running before he can be touched

  33. ronnyhanson says: Dec 27, 2011 3:54 PM

    The league isn’t concerned with player safety. It is concerned about being sued down the line.

    “Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.” – This section makes no sense. If the defensive player lower’s his aiming point and the offensive player does not, the crown/forehead of the helmet will contact the offensive player, most likely under the chin. It is only bad technique if the defender drops his chin or spears with the helmet. Players are taught in youth league to “bite” the ball with their facemask, while getting low and seeing what they hit. That runs contrary to the soft hits the NFL desires. It is a bunch of BS and hypocrisy.

    The owners want passing, points, offense and superstar QB’s, so they can attract marginal fans and increase ratings. They then put all of these absurd rules in place to foster that environment. Then they can avoid future lawsuits under the guise of player safety. Goodell is their puppet. What they are doing to the great game of football is sickening.

  34. tampajoey says: Dec 27, 2011 3:54 PM

    The NFL needs to incorporate simple style UFC rules. No biting, eye gouging or kicks to the crotch. End the wussification of the NFL!

  35. l0yalr0yal says: Dec 27, 2011 3:55 PM

    The rule, itself, is alot easier than James Harrison makes it out to be. He continually says “I don’t know what I’m doing wrong”.

    Don’t put your helmet on anyone else’s helmet.

  36. dscol715 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:57 PM

    I know its fun to rip on Goddell and the officials but this was absolutely Gruden’s fault. It is embarrassing that most of the announcers who are paid to know the rules can’t be bothered to learn them. The rule is very simple, you can’t hit a defenseless receiver in the head. Thats why the Colston hit was a penalty and the Reggie Kelly hit to the back wasn’t.

  37. nflfollower says: Dec 27, 2011 3:58 PM

    At least gruden is willing to criticize somebody on MMF, even if it is just the rules committee! The rulebook states it is illegal if a defender “unnecessarily” hits a defenseless reciever. From a defenders standpoint, hitting a reciever after he has just caught a pass that will hurt your team, the hit to jar loose the ball is actually very “necessary” and by that distinction, should not be illegal

  38. johnnycamparm says: Dec 27, 2011 3:59 PM

    Pereira wrote in a series of Twitter messages ripping Gruden.

    “He was defenseless and u can hit him in the head or neck area with your helmet, shoulder, forearm.”

    It’s a good thing that the NFL rulebook wasn’t written with Twitter, cause that would make the rulebook really confusing…

  39. jerseyshoregiant says: Dec 27, 2011 4:02 PM

    radiofriendly420 says: Dec 27, 2011 3:47 PM

    Well someone tell Mike Pereira that fans are steamed too. We’re sick of these ridiculous rules ruining the game.

    One second you just saw your defense make an awesome play.

    The next second it’s first down for the other team and you’re wondering why the hell you even watch this sport anymore.

    One by one, fans will find this game more and more ridiculous. One by one fans will quit watching this game because they will ask themselves – “How much do I really like flag football?”
    ——————————————-

    Will someone tell Fox that we don’t want to hear from Pereira during the game! It’s the most annoying thing in the world. It reminds me of when Fox decided they were going to use the “blue” and “red” streaks on passes and slap shots during Hockey games.

  40. steelersmichele says: Dec 27, 2011 4:04 PM

    Instead of constantly clarifying rules to the fans, why doesn’t Goodell and the league clarify the rules to the refs and officials again? Considering the fans don’t throw flags during games, it would help make the officiating a bit more consistent- which is what the fans want and what the officials can’t seem to give us.

  41. jcusa514 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:05 PM

    thanks to a fluke week back in 2010 where 3 or 4 guys got hit bad we have these rules that are up to interpretation….and tom brady too (just had to slide that one in there)

  42. purpleisreallypinkyouknow says: Dec 27, 2011 4:05 PM

    Per Mike Periera: “He was defenseless and u can hit him in the head or neck area with your helmet, shoulder, forearm…”

    Per the NFL rule: “Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player…”

    So Mr. Rules, Mike Pereira, doesn’t even have the right answer….no wonder the officials don’t either.

    Either way, asking a complete moron like crew chief Jeff Triplette to interpret the rules is asking too much. I often wonder which back judge or side judge has to tie Jeff’s shoes before the come onto the field. How many refs do we need in the offensive backfield for someone to see the blatant hold on the Brees to Graham TD last night? Utter silence in the booth when they showed the replay, like none of the 3 wisemen wanted to bring up how bad the Falcons DE got mobbed there…..what a joke.

  43. richie500 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:07 PM

    What happened to that great defensive play knocking the ball out?
    Your high fiving with people then the flag comes out. How lame is that?
    There is no flow to the games anymore.
    Football games aren’t about big plays anymore, it’s who gets the most pass-interference or defenseless reciever penalties.
    Football has peaked!

  44. dannyabramowitz says: Dec 27, 2011 4:10 PM

    The rules need to be simplified, they are way too complicated for both the players and the officials. How about this — it is illegal to use to CROWN of the helmet to hit another player in the head. THAT’S IT, everything else is legal, including a facemask to facemask hit, like the one last night. Harrison’s hit on McCoy would be flagged because he used the CROWN of his helmet. Facesmask to facemask hits would be okay. Simple for everyone and easily enforceable.

  45. Stiller43 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:15 PM

    Sounds like last night the call was for hitting the wr at all. Later you see head contact but that was not what was called.

    If you cant hit a wr in the process of a catch, in the head or otherwise, what the hell are you supposed to do to play defense?!

    Ronnie lott would be rolling in his grave – if he were dead.

  46. dtown53121 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:16 PM

    im so tired of this. i have played football my whole life and thought i knew football. guess i was wrong. now i cant even tell whats a touchdown! lets get back to old fashioned football. the kind that made us fans in the first place. hard hits and knocking the guys block off was part of the reason we loved the game. no more coddling quarterbacks. the way the hitting rules are now, it wont be long before players knees will become the next target to be try and protect because of acl and mcl tears. just put flags on em and watch this great game go down the toilet.

  47. runrickyrun34 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:16 PM

    We’re going into the final week of the regular season and we’re still trying to figure out what is a catch, what’s a TD catch, what’s a defensless receiver, when does a QB become a runner, what is/isn’t an illegal hit to the head, and what is/isn’t a chop block. And you can’t forget the classics like: what is illegal contact, what is/isn’t pass interference on either defense/offense, is whether or not the ball was catchable even a factor anymore, what’s possession, and if holding occurs on the other side of the field is it really holding (Bears return for a TD that was called holding)? Doesn’t this say something about the over complexity of the rule book or at least an argument for hiring full-time officials? They need the offseason to read the book. I wouldn’t do that for free either. Every week it’s an article about rules…like Pee Wee’s Playhouse word of the day.

    “When someone says ‘defensless receiver’, scream!”

  48. blogatron2000 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:17 PM

    The explanation on the field was done really badly but the replay clearly showed helmet to helmet contact. It was a good call.

    Gruden was out of line (there’s a shock). You’d think someone with his experience might know the rule a bit better than it appears he does.
    Rumors have it that he might get back into coaching soon.

    Careful Chucky, refs have long memories…

  49. jrmbadger says: Dec 27, 2011 4:19 PM

    “tmcb7 says:
    Dec 27, 2011 3:51 PM
    Can the NFL please clarify the call by Jeff Triplette last night when he said:
    “There is no penalty for holding. The player was shedding the tackler on a screen play.”

    Oh, and the play was not a screen pass and the offensive lineman tackled the defensive lineman in the endzone while Drew Brees was running to the right…
    Please clarify that!
    and while you’re at it, please clarify how Jeff Triplette and his crew are still officiating in the NFL. By far the worst crew ever… and they are put on the Falcons/Saints MNF game?”

    I second that. Not that it would have mattered – the Falcon’s got killed by the Saints (and I like the Saints), but that was by far one of the WORST officiating calls I’ve EVER seen.

    Most mistakes can be classified as either mistakes in judgment (e.g., the Ref saw it one way and replay showed they were wrong), or rarely a mistake in applying the rules (e.g., the ref didn’t apply the right rule, or applied the right rule incorrectly). This was BOTH.

  50. ricardorobertasq says: Dec 27, 2011 4:21 PM

    It looked to me like he was hitting his upper chest and the receiver’s head bent down, knocking into his. The receiver looked like he was bracing for the hit. Can’t find it on youtube, but maybe someone can find it and look at it. While we are looking at foolish rules, why isn’t intentional grounding called every time a QB spikes the ball; if we are going to play within the rules, then play within the rules.

  51. bullcharger says: Dec 27, 2011 4:25 PM

    The key word is “Forcibly”. The referees are calling any and all helmet to helment contact on defenseless receivers. If the hit is mostly body and the players helments happen to hit together, it isn’t a forcible helmet hit.

    They have some grace but they are calling it completely black and white.

    In additon, as the rule says, the receiver doesn’t need to clearly be a runner to be classified as “not defenseless”. He just has to have time to protect himself.

    There is room within the rules to call these plays better.

  52. weepingjebus says: Dec 27, 2011 4:25 PM

    Maybe we can just put little lights on people’s helmets that turn green when it’s ok to hit them and red when it’s not. I don’t see how else anyone is supposed to accurately predict how these rules apply unless each player also gets to bring a lawyer on the field.

  53. bellichickshoody says: Dec 27, 2011 4:29 PM

    How could you call that penalty and not call the other four contact plays when falcons receivers got hit as they were trying to catch the ball.

    Not a Falcons fan, but that call was a horrible call…I agree with Gruden. And if by chance, it was the right call by the letter of the law, then the next four contact plays on Falcons receivers while attempting to catch the ball were bad calls.

    Also, its time that the NFL starts grading officials publicly and fining officials who make bad calls or bad interpretations.

    The officials have more controll on the outcome than the players.

    between last night and Thursdays Texans, JJ Watt debacle, its clear that football as we all know it is over. JUST STINKS

  54. ravensgrl says: Dec 27, 2011 4:31 PM

    @vikescry1
    what about the saints player that drove his helmet into a falcons spine? look it’s football, and i undrstand there trying to protect players. but there inconsistent and making it into a s i s s y league.

    I agree completely. This happened only a few plays later, and there was no foul called. The inconsistency is so frustrating!

  55. packers291 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:31 PM

    Colsten ducked into the hit, causing the helmet to helmet contact.

    All this rule does is give receivers incentive to duck their heads into the tacklers, adding 15 yards to the catch.

  56. bellichickshoody says: Dec 27, 2011 4:32 PM

    Lets just make the defense tackle the offensive players with pillows…whoops, thats not safe – the offense might get hit with a feather

  57. chmba says: Dec 27, 2011 4:32 PM

    1. Hard for Triplette, et al to outdo Walt Coleman crew for consistent bad officiating.

    2. Pereira is just a planted pimp for Goodell and excuse maker for officials. Fox must have had to hire him as part of the TV deal. Since he was supervisor of officials, no wonder officiating is so bad.

  58. cliffordc05 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:32 PM

    What should be made clear in the rules is that there is a possibility of ‘incidental contact’ when a defender leads with his shoulder. The receiver may duck or lower his helmet leading to some contact with the defender’s helmet even though the defender led with his shoulder. To think that there will be no contact with a receiver’s helmet (or a quarterback’s helmet) in these cases is silly. It also leads to a blurring of the difference between legal and illegal contact.

  59. drgfri says: Dec 27, 2011 4:33 PM

    Perhaps a clarification of the defenseless coed rule is in order for pigs like Roethlisberger!

  60. dboskie says: Dec 27, 2011 4:37 PM

    Kya_Tropic_Fan says:
    Dec 27, 2011 3:41 PM
    I was unfortunately unable to see the play in question, so I cant exactly comment on it, but, with that being said, I dont understand how there is confusion with regard to defensive players hitting helmet to helmet. If a defensive player drives his shoulder into the offensive players ribs/hips/abdomen area, they will never have to pray that the ref doesnt throw the flag. When you go high against a player (“defenseless” or not) you are giving the official an opportunity to make a call that goes against you, and hurts your team. Go low, aim for the players hips and you wont get a flag. Simple as that. Not to mention that I am sick and tired of watching players go for a knock out blow only to bounce off, and the ball carrier gets 20+ extra yards. Hit him in the abdomen, wrap him up, and if you cant take him down, the rest of the defense will be there soon enough. I would take a great tackling defensive player over a defensive player looking for the knock out any day. Maybe that is just me. But the risk/reward on a big hit just doesnt seem worth it. Too many defenses give up a first down on 3rd and long because they went for the knock out and bounced off…

    ————————————————–
    That is the problem. You didn’t see the hit. The receiver did lower his head which caused the defensive player and the offensive player to collide. These rules are a joke. I tell ya what, if the NFL wants to make these rules fair how about evening out the stakes for both sides. Pass interference in the endzone on a 60-yard bomb results in 1st and goal. How about offensive pass interference results in 15 yards AND a loss of downs. How about any offensive holding penalty results in a loss of down. Same thing for a false start. Allow the teams to play some defense for god sakes.

  61. macbull says: Dec 27, 2011 4:37 PM

    FIX THE HELMETS…and stop the craziness of changing the greatest game played in this country…American football.

    The NFL continues to use the same basic football helmets they used in the 1960s…a rock hard plastic outer shell with air bags and padding added to the inside to absorb the shock.

    Padding added to the outside of helmets was successfully used by NFL players concerned about career threatening concussions, yet the NFL refuses to mandate the use of those helmet options.

    The NFL needs to upgrade the safety capabilities of their helmets and stop changing the game.

  62. cancelsundayticket says: Dec 27, 2011 4:39 PM

    Just another lame attempt by the league and Pereira to explain ANOTHER bad call! I’m all for cracking down on head hunting and protecting the QBs, but this is still, as far as I know, TACKLE football…people’s heads are going to come together at times.

    Further the rules are not enforced with any consistency…to many subjective rules in the game now, imho.

  63. blackbeardk says: Dec 27, 2011 4:41 PM

    The call on Jerome Boyd on a block on a kick return was ridiculous. He waited for the defender to turn before blocking him hit him with a shoulder in the chest, and the defender’s legs and head came forward before he was a pancake on the ground. But because the defender’s helmet hit Boyd’s, Boyd received a penalty…Boyd did NOT lead with his helmet or initiate the helmet to helmet contact…these plays used to make sportscenter…not ref’s waffle weekly…

  64. jibbajones says: Dec 27, 2011 4:43 PM

    Things are starting to get ridiculous.

    I think everyone agrees that penalties should get called when a defensive player uses his helmet as a weapon when trying to tackle someone. But can we start being adults when it comes to this stuff?

    Let’s be honest, when playing in the NFL, concussions are an occupational hazard. If guys are really concerned about their well-being when it comes to head injuries, they should walk away from the game…

    I don’t say that to sound like a tough guy or a neanderthal, it’s just the reality of the game when played at an elite level. What I call “casual” helmet to helmet contact will always occur regardless of the rules put in place.

    I compare football players to boxers or MMA fighters. When’s the last time you’ve seen a fight stopped due to “possible concussion symptoms”? It’s an occupational hazard that’s fully understood when stepping into the ring. A guy gets rocked with a big punch/kick, but as long as he is able to defend himself, he is allowed to continue.

    If an NFL player suffers a head injury, but passes all the field tests and is coherent and lucid, it should be his choice to go back into the game. If a guy clearly is out on his feet, then you sit him.

    I just think we need to start acknowledging that the game of football at the elite level is inherently dangerous.

  65. wtfru2 says: Dec 27, 2011 4:45 PM

    Last night’s officiating crew is by far the worst in the NFL. The ref can’t even pronounce holding. He says hoding instead.

    Why doesn’t the NFL hire professional refs like all other sports? Oh that’s right they can hardly afford it…………

  66. ruggerlad says: Dec 27, 2011 4:53 PM

    We the fans pay big money to watch TACKLE FOOTBALL. This money provides ridiculous amounts of money which fills the bank accounts of players, owners, coaches, refs, ticket master, broadcast announcers, etc. If you are worried about injury get a normal job with normal risks and a normal salary or sell your team to a wealthy FAN, and not some rich business man who thinks owning an NFL team might be fun or an investment. GIVE US BACK WHAT WE ARE ALREADY PAYING FAR FAR TOO MUCH FOR!!!
    Pereria you sir are a joke and have no business being involved in the sport the NFL has gone down hill since your involvement with officiating and we now pay more for less.

  67. ytsejamer1 says: Dec 27, 2011 5:03 PM

    The time period during this period as classified by the NFL equals about 3/4 of a second. A bunch of crusty old refs watching these unreal athletes going full out makes it very difficult to quantify. Refs still make the call…sometimes right or sometimes wrong.

    You could have a rule with 1200 words to describe a defenseless player…in the course of game action, it really doesn’t matter. Any hit to the head should be illegal and that’s that.

    RB constantly put their heads down and slam into tacklers’ helmets and somehow that’s legal. Stupid.

  68. heyzeus143 says: Dec 27, 2011 5:07 PM

    the rule sucks, let them hit

  69. raiderlyfe510 says: Dec 27, 2011 5:11 PM

    I think Goodell needs to realize that any high speed collision is dangerous. Thats why football is played with pads and a helmet.

    Football is a dangerous sport. Goodell needs to be the commissioner of a flag football league. The NFL is obviously too violent for him. His rules are outrageous and any rule that comes with a “Err on the side of caution” can not be enforced justly or consistently. Goodell is nuts.

  70. jimmylions says: Dec 27, 2011 5:12 PM

    “if a player initiates unnecessary contact”

    Where is “unnecessary contact” defined?

    If someone is catching a ball and you want to break up the catch, contact is necessary. If you’re worried about a helpless receiver, then don’t ask the receiver to do things that make him helpless.

    The players have to make split second judgement calls and get them all right, but the refs are allowed to talk things over and get them wrong? This is insanity.

  71. bigjdve says: Dec 27, 2011 5:13 PM

    Everyone keeps getting on Goodell for these rules. People seem to forget that it is the players as a majority that are crying about head injuries, both current and former players are complaining about it.

    Just last week there were at least 2 lawsuits brought by 2 different groups of players regarding player safety.

    So when complaining about the penalties, fines, and suspensions go talk to the players and remind them that they are the people asking for the more hardline approach.

    The owners and the NFL would like nothing more than to let them beat themselves into oblivion, that makes them more money.

    To me it seems that we have a gladiatorial sport where the gladiators want more protection, complain when the are given it, the fans want blood and complain when they can’t get it.

    How does the NFL win?

  72. clayton43 says: Dec 27, 2011 5:39 PM

    Nothing personal at all… but THESE rules that have been in place and moving forward is why these passing records being broken mean absolutley nothing and are very much watered down. It is absurd and very frustrating I think to people who love football.. not just fantasy players who could care less but want to see more points. QBs who throw the ball 50 times a game should end up with tons of yards and the rules allow for that. Football is becoming more like arena football league.

  73. snnyjcbs says: Dec 27, 2011 6:03 PM

    I have it from a “reliable source” lol, that all NFL Teams will now have one Attorney in the Booth and one on the Sidelines.

    It will be their jobs to try and interpret and explain the rules to the coaches and players as the games are being played. I had enough of the Pereira BS when he was in the NFL, I sure do not need what has always been the NFL self serving BS Spin on bad calls.

    What is that old saying? “do not (*& down my back and try and tell me it is raining”.

    See all the records that may be broke this year?, more BS in today’s game of pitch and catch, they mean nothing.

  74. dscol715 says: Dec 27, 2011 6:55 PM

    Pereira has every right to be mad. The officials got both calls right but because the announcers can’t spend 15 minutes learning the rule millions of people are misinformed. The Colston call was correct because the rule states that you can’t hit a defenceless receiver in the head. It’s that simple. The rule does not give leeway for intent. You can argue about the rule but that is the rule. The Reggie Kelly non-call was also correct because he was hit in the back not the head. Gruden needs to get a clue. And for those of you who disagree with the rule get a life. The NFL is trying to save these players from getting ALS or blowing their brains out 20 years from now. Sorry if that gets in the way of your Sunday entertainment.

  75. bkostela says: Dec 27, 2011 6:56 PM

    1) Colston lowered his head into the hit.

    2) That WAS holding in the end zone on the Saints. How does the fact that the ref determined the play to be a screen pass make it not holding? Are the ref’s going to start calling out the “Mike” before the plays as well?

    3) Jeff Triplette should not have a job – but if he keeps up what he’s doing it seems the NFL will make him the next Mike Pereira.

    4) Mike Pereira should not have a job. He is terrible.

    5) “macbull says:
    The NFL continues to use the same basic football helmets they used in the 1960s…a rock hard plastic outer shell with air bags and padding added to the inside to absorb the shock.

    Padding added to the outside of helmets was successfully used by NFL players concerned about career threatening concussions, yet the NFL refuses to mandate the use of those helmet options.”

    Padding on the helmets actually causes more of an injury risk to the players. Yes the brain is protected, but because the helmet “sticks” upon impact, there is a much increased risk of serious neck injury.

  76. skyleralan says: Dec 27, 2011 6:58 PM

    With so many judgement rules/calls in the game the NFL has gone the wrong direction. I will commend them for their efforts with the force out rule (player being pushed OB when in the act of trying to make a catch) and the automatic 15 yard face mask was another penalty they got right.

    I just don’t get how they are so WRONG with the defenseless receiver penalty, QB roughing, and illegal contact call. All three of these are called completely differently based on the refs working the game.

    Instead of the referees having less of an impact on games they now, play a large role who wins and loses.

    Either get rid of these calls or get more concrete definitions of these rules.

  77. gergie1957 says: Dec 27, 2011 7:07 PM

    The problem with this rule and many others, like holding, hands to the face, block in the back, are not called on a consistent basis.

    So this makes the refs game changers, and it shouldn’t be that way. let the players decide the games, not officials.

  78. dietrich43 says: Dec 27, 2011 7:10 PM

    Why not just make it illegal to lead with the crown of the helmet – it’s what most sports consider spearing. Why is it ok for a RB to hit a LB in the head, or vice versa, but not if it’s a QB or WR?

  79. danetow says: Dec 27, 2011 8:29 PM

    Why doesn’t the NFL just take a step back and realize the wording of the rule is what causes the problems. Something like this would be much more acceptable.

    “Any contact to a player’s head that is not deemed a runner in possession of the football will be a 15 yard penalty.”

    That protects your quarterbacks in the pocket and receivers that are quote “defenseless.” The defensive players will be able to understand it much more than the jibberish that the rule currently is.

  80. gripless says: Dec 27, 2011 8:58 PM

    Why don’t they make it a penalty on the offense for running routs that place players in illegal positions?

  81. alreggie says: Dec 27, 2011 8:59 PM

    It’s a ridiculous statement to say that the league is “sissified” if it is trying to legislate protection for its players. Same way speed limits are put on highways to protect the rest of us from those that can’t help themselves from breaking laws, whatever the punishment. Take the guy’s head off—no catch most of the time.

  82. theglap says: Dec 27, 2011 9:54 PM

    I will fix the rule right now:

    “It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture.
    (a) Players in a defenseless posture are:
    (1) Those players not on the field.
    (2) There is no (2).”

  83. jimothyvonstojavic says: Dec 28, 2011 5:11 AM

    I have no problem with the rule. As the falcons know, it is there for good measure. We all saw what happened last year with dunta Robinson and desean Jackson. I have a problem with the other rules like you can’t TOUCH the QBs head. The nfl is being ruined.

  84. ampking101 says: Dec 28, 2011 5:49 AM

    How about eliminate this stupid thing called defenseless receivers and stick to unnecessary roughness. I’m sure the refs could maker the freaking call when the rules don’t contradict themselves. If a player intends to cause damage it’s unnecessary roughness. No one on the field is defenseless. You want to limit the big hit, there is your ticket. You want defense to become boring and have 60 point games from every team? Keep doing what your doing. What I know I prefer games that are battles rather than shoot outs. Remove the defensive plays you remove the chess element and at that point coaching becomes useless. Congrats Goodell, I think you have officiallykilled american football. I hope your proud.

    FYI the reason the falcons have been playing so badly this season, you make the game a pissing walk in the park, smash mouth becomes irrelavent, the run becomes useless. How often do the packers run? How about Pats? The run is next to useless nowadays….it’s really sad.

  85. themightywhitey says: Dec 28, 2011 6:48 AM

    defenseless player =player with no helmet ……..otherwise play on !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  86. truthserum4u says: Dec 28, 2011 9:53 AM

    cletusvandam says:Dec 27, 2011 3:43 PM

    Tackles where the defender lowers his head, or spears the ball carrier with the helmet, or just headhunts like James Harrison does should be called. Incidental stuff like this is overkill.

    ==========================

    Exactly!!

    With guys moving every which way at such high speeds your bound to have helmets collide. Incidental or inadvertant contact is part of the game. It’s using the helmet as a weapon that needs to be stopped.

  87. tjv027 says: Dec 29, 2011 10:59 AM

    For all of you blowhards who are clamoring for the “good old days” when football was still a “man’s game”, keep in mind that back then, defensive backs wrapped their arms and made form tackles. They didn’t lower their heads and shoulders with their arms at their sides to lay someone out.

    My two favorite sports leagues in the world are the NFL and the NHL…both are dealing with this crisis. It’s more entertaining for all of us to see high-speed collisions and bone crunching hits, but ex-players are dying way too young. The evidence is too strong to ignore that allowing hits targeting the head is too dangerous.

    If you’re a defensive back in the NFL, lower your shoulder and drive it into the players torso, like you’ve been taught to do your entire life. Receivers that “crouch down” causing blows to the head are no longer defenseless, and aren’t classified by the rule. When refs screw that part of it up, it doesn’t mean the rule is bogus, it’s just a blown call.

  88. pravin68 says: Dec 29, 2011 12:05 PM

    Actually tjvo27, if Goodell was concerned about injuries, he would know that a lot of the lifelong injuries are sustained in the trenches. You see more linemen with brain related problems more than WRs or QBs

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