So what is a “peel back” block? Here’s the rule, from Rule 12, Section 2, Article 4 of the official rulebook: “If a player who is aligned in the tackle box when the ball is snapped moves to a position outside the box, he cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if: (a) the blocker is moving toward his own end line; and (b) he approached the opponent from behind or from the side.”
The rule contains the following note: “If the near shoulder of the blocker contacts the front of his opponent’s body, the ‘peel back’ block is legal.”
On the Slauson hit, the contact occurred just beyond the tackle box, based on the position of the right tackle before the snap. But it appears that Slauson’s near shoulder contacted the front of Cushing’s knee, not the side or the back.
It’s close, and it definitely looks and feels like a dirty play. NBC officiating consultant Jim Daopoulos previously told PFT that it was a legal hit. We’ll try to get Jim on Friday’s PFT Live in the hopes of figuring this one out, once and for all.
It could be that the NFL erred on the side of doing that which seemed fair under the circumstances. The real question is whether Slauson would have been fined if Cushing hadn’t been injured.