Although defensive players often say that the NFL has favored the offense with its player safety rules, the NFL’s head of officiating is also telling coaches that they need to make sure their offensive players aren’t committing any illegal blocks on defensive players.
In a video that was first shown at last week’s league meeting and has since been distributed publicly, head of officiating Carl Johnson tells NFL coaches that they need to make sure their wide receivers understand that the rules prohibit them from crackback blocks that target defensive players either in the head or neck area, or in the legs.
“Coaches, I encourage you to cover this rule with your receivers,” Johnson said. “They have to lower their target. The strike zone is from the shoulder pads to the waist.”
The video shows Browns receiver Josh Gordon leveling Ravens safety Ed Reed with an illegal crackback block, and as that video plays, Johnson explains that recipients of crackback blocks are considered defenseless players who get extra protection, just as receivers in the process of catching the ball and quarterbacks in the process of throwing the ball are.
“The rule states it is an illegal crackback block if a defensive player is contacted below the waist within an area five yards on either side of the line of scrimmage, within close line play, by an offensive player who is moving toward the position from which the ball is snapped,” Johnson said. “An offensive player who is aligned more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped is prohibited from coming back toward the football and blocking low or hitting a player in the head or neck area. That was the amended rule change that we put in for the 2012 season.”
And so the NFL has thrown a bone to defensive players, with a reminder that the league office will crack down on offensive players, too.