Last Sunday, NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos said before the start of the games that the replacement officials will struggle with the illegal contact rule, due in large part to the fact that the rule doesn’t exist at lower levels of the sport.
Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said in a pregame interview with Deion Sanders of NFL Network that, indeed, the replacements are fumbling that rule.
“I don’t think the illegal contact down the field is being enforced the right way,” said Rodgers, the 2011 NFL MVP. “When you play a lot of man coverage, there’s gonna be times when they’re either pushing or holding or grabbing after five yards. And when it’s blatant, when that guy’s No. 1 or 2 in the progression and it’s not being called, the rules weren’t exactly followed.”
During Rodgers’ comments, NFLN was showing video (the cool kids call it “B-roll”) of receivers being pushed and held and grabbed down the field. In college and high school, that’s legal — until the ball is in the air.
As Daopoulos explained it, the rule is complicated. If the quarterback is out of the pocket, the protection disappears. And one instance of contact is permitted within five yards of the line of scrimmage.
For officials who never have had to enforce the rule, it’s a lot to expect them to make the adjustment while they’re also trying to adjust to the gigantic stage on which they’re now performing.