Rule book sends mixed signals on Jason Campbell hit

In October, after Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis passionately complained about the league’s protection of quarterback Tom Brady on a weekend during which other apparently illegal hits on other quarterbacks didn’t trigger roughing-the-passer penalties, NFL V.P. of officiating Mike Pereia conceded that all quarterbacks should be receiving the kind of protection that Brady now enjoys.

The recently-hatched supersensitivity to concussions presumably has served only to raise the hemline on the proverbial skirt that quarterbacks are now wearing.  Indeed, even the most glancing contact with the head of a passer routinely has been triggering a flag.

So when Eagles defensive end Juqua Parker threw Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell to the ground at the tail end of a game-deciding fourth-down play on Sunday, a penalty should have been called, right?

“They are lucky,” FOX’s Darryl Johnston said on the air at the
time.  “They got away with one. . . .  Juqua Parker could have gotten a
15-yarder because he spun [Campbell] to the ground.  Watch this. . . .  They
got lucky. . . .  They just dodged a big bullet right there, because
that could have very easily been a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty.”

According to the NFL, the non-call was the right call.

On Tuesday, coach Jim Zorn explained (via Dan Steinberg of the Washington Post) that the league said no rule was broken on a play that could have broken Campbell’s spine.

No, nope, legal play,” Zorn said.  “Because [Parker] got [Campbell] around the shoulders and not the helmet.”

One specific portion of the applicable rule arguably supports the league’s position.  Here’s the relevant language, from Rule 12, Section 2, Article 13(2) of the 2009 Official Playing Rules:  “When tackling a passer who is in a virtually defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most
of the defender’s weight.  Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up or cradle the passer with the defensive player’s arms.”  (Emphasis supplied.)

In our view, Parker “violently” threw Campbell down.  But the rule doesn’t say “violently throw him down OR land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.”  It says “and.”  Under the letter of the law, then, a defender apparently is permitted to violenty throw the quarterback down, as long as the defender doesn’t land on the quarterback with all or most of the defender’s weight.

This seems to be the basis for the interpretation that the league supplied to Zorn.

“I didn’t see the TV copy, I just saw what I saw, and it was
questionable, but [the NFL] saw it from all angles and they were
emphatic that was a clean play,” Zorn said. 

“You can hit a guy hard, now.  You can hit a QB hard.  You just can’t land
all your full body weight [on him], and [Parker] did not.  I mean, this
is a violent game, and we’ve got to be ready to take some punishment,
and unfortunately it looked violent because he got whipped down pretty
quick.  But [Parker] didn’t land on him, and I think that’s fair.”

Still, it’s impossible to ignore the next sentence of the rule:  “Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up or cradle the passer with the defensive player’s arms.”  This implies that the defender may not violenty throw the quarterback to the ground, even if the defender doesn’t land on the quarterback.  

Moreover, the notion that a defensive end can slam a quarterback to the ground as long as the defensive end doesn’t land on the quarterback seems to run counter to the notion of protecting a passer, who is as the league acknowledges in the rule book “particularly vulnerable to injury.” 

Thus, in this age of heightened awareness to player safety generally, the “and” in Rule 12, Section 2, Article 13(2) needs to be changed to an “or.” 

Especially since the very next sentence in the rule book strongly suggests that the “and” should have been an “or” in the first place.

31 responses to “Rule book sends mixed signals on Jason Campbell hit

  1. I bet if the call was made and the eagles complained, the NFL would say the right call was made. The NFL officals just do not have the consistency this year.

  2. While the tackle wasnt techinically a penalty; Campbell was thrown hard enough to the ground to cause him to blackout for about 30 secs.
    When a passer is hit with enough force to merit a blackout; a rule probably should be tweaked to give refs more leeway so they can toss a flag.

  3. Lies. I remember the Adalius Thomas Roughing penalty earlier this year against I think the Bills and Pereira(sp?) defended the call. Do these people forget that everything they say can be logged and referenced with the click of the mouse?

  4. RIP___21, are you sure? Or was he just acting? You never actually know when a player or team is telling a lie or the truth.
    I’m surprised it wasn’t called, but I’m also surprised there was no penalty when McNabb was hit in the back late against Carolina.
    I’m also surprised two years ago when Trent Cole did a textbook tackle of Matt Ryan as he threw the ball and was flagged for roughing the passer.
    As they say in France, c’est la vie.
    It all evens out in the end.

  5. Remeber former Bengal Justin Smith got a flag for taking down former Buc’s QB Bruce Gradkowski. He cradled him just like the rule says. They need to be more consistent. That play cost the game and a playoff shot.

  6. Hey, where is the “2009 Official Playing Rules” online? used to have a copy of the rules, but now only has a dumbed-down version of the rules. I can’t find the full rulebook anywhere anymore. Do they think we’re too stupid to understand it? (Could be true for 99%)

  7. Assuming that the language of the Rulebook hasn’t changed significantly since the 2006 version, which is the only version I could easily find on the web, the argument above ignores most of the relevant language that shows that what Parker did was clearly roughing the passer.
    The language that Florio quotes is preceded in the 2006 Rulebook by the following operative language:
    A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as “stuffing” a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (1) above.
    Parker “stuffed” or drove Campbell to the ground by grabbing him and slamming him to the ground after he threw the ball.
    Also, the one-step limitation is important. That provision says that:
    once a pass has been released by a passer, a rushing
    defender may make direct contact with the passer only up through the rusher’s first step after such release (prior to second step hitting the ground); thereafter the rusher must be making an attempt to avoid contact and must not continue to “drive through” or otherwise forcibly contact the passer
    Parker hit Campbell after the throw and then grabbed him and slammed him to the ground.

  8. Since when does what the rules say mean that’s how it’s called? The Patriots’ mauling of Colts receivers in the playoffs a few years ago is an example. From what I remember, the rules for contact were already on the books, they were just interpreted in a way that allowed that to happen. After that season, Bill Polian and the Competition Committee changed the interpretation of the rule, no new rule was created.

  9. Or there will be no one left to play in 20 years. That his was vicious and should have been a penalty.

  10. How come a player can only look at Mrs. Tom Brady funny and they get a penalty. I am so damn sick of the way the officials obviously coddle that little wuss. SICK OF IT. At least they could try even a little to hide the fact they cater to the little girl Brady.

  11. @rip21
    Refs should be given MORE leeway to throw flags regarding hits on the QB? Yeah, I believe there is already an intolerable amount of leeway in that area of a sport that is based around violent collisions. You want the refs to decide if the passer was hit too hard? Dude, seriously, go watch golf or cricket or bowling. As long as there is nothing dirty or late about the hit, the QB should be like every other player on the field and the defender should be allowed to wallop him given the opportunity.

  12. Outsyder says:
    December 2, 2009 10:42 AM
    I’m surprised it wasn’t called, but I’m also surprised there was no penalty when McNabb was hit in the back late against Carolina.
    I’m also surprised two years ago when Trent Cole did a textbook tackle of Matt Ryan as he threw the ball and was flagged for roughing the passer.
    You’re right on both points, but the Matt Ryan tackle was last year. It was a perfect tackle, the kind they teach kids in pop warner, but I suppose the flag was thrown because it was a strong hit and Ryan was writhing in pain on the turf afterwards.
    As an Eagles fan, it’s tough to decifer what is and isn’t deserving of a roughing the passer call when your franchise QB is permitted to be crushed by a defensive tackle after he scored a TD, resulting in broken ribs, without a flag ever being thrown.

  13. Here’s the rule for Brady…
    “Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up or SPOON the passer with the defensive player’s body.”

  14. I’m thinking that maybe some consistency in the calls being made would alleviate most of the controversy.
    With regard to the Campbell play, it looked to me like Parker went well beyond what was necessary. However, I wouldn’t want to see the winning score come as a result of a defender not being close enough to the QB to “cradle” him, and at the same time having to pass up a sure chance to sling him to the ground for fear of drawing a wrinkling the taffeta penalty.

  15. If Brady, either Manning, Favre or Brees had been the recipient of that hit a penalty would have been (and should have been) called.
    It was unnecessary, as in unnecessary roughness.

  16. “I’m also surprised two years ago when Trent Cole did a textbook tackle of Matt Ryan as he threw the ball and was flagged for roughing the passer.”
    He should’ve been flagged, an NFL player going to a college game and sacking the qb like that? Come on.

  17. Hey Brewster, that ain’t true at all. Brees got smashed in the face during the Falcons game. The defender lowered his head and hit Brees in the facemask and there wasn’t a call. I agree it should have been called, but everybody can’t be Brady. And i don’t see Manning getting these calls either.

  18. Yep, Florio, you are still a lawyer. You can take the lawyer outta the courtroom, but you can’t take the … courtroom … out … the football? Whatever, you know what I mean. You can take the man away from studying the law, but you can’t take studying the law away from the man. (That’s better.) As a football enthusiast (obsesser), and a lawyer, I appreciate you’re attention to the “and”s and “or”s.

  19. I have not seen the play. I know this. If it was Tom Brady or one of the Manning boys they would have gotten the call.
    No consistentcy at all. It depends who you are.

  20. @ Cardsfan81:
    I did see the play, and you are right. If it had been Brady or Romo or a Manning, it WOULD have been called. Even if it wasn’t, by rule, roughing the passer, it could have been called unnecessary roughness. Campbell was grabbed after he threw, spun around, and slammed hard into the ground, so hard that it knocked him unconscious.
    No question at all that a penalty should have been called.
    Would the Skins have driven down to win or tie the game after getting the first down from the penalty? Hard to say, since Campbell would definitely have been out and backup Todd Collins would have had to come in cold. But it is the NFL, and anything can happen on any given Sunday. We’ve all seen backup QBs come into games cold and deliver amazing plays.
    Just shows how pitifully inconsistent the league still is at officiating their games.

  21. Just Perez Florio hating on the Eagles…..again.
    It wasn’t a cheap or late hit. Put your butt in a game, run at full speed and make a play. It wasn’t dirty or ill intended. Just a player playing hard. What if Campbell pump faked and brought the ball down? Drive thru the player and make sure he’s down. According to the “rule” you can’t drive him into the ground and land on him, so grab hold and make sure he goes down.
    CtownBleedsGreen says:
    December 2, 2009 11:08 AM
    They should change the verbiage from “cradle” to “spoon”.
    That is just plain funny right there, nice job Ctown!!

  22. I think the rule is fine and makes perfect sense how its written.
    The rule says you cant slam a defenseless qb to the ground and then land all or most your weight on top of him and even if you do that you have to try to hold him up and try to stop him from slamming to the ground. Which I think Parker did exactly.
    He had cambell and was taking him to the ground and let it up so he didnt drive him into the ground. I dont see how that breaks the rule even if it was written they way you think it should be.
    He didnt land with his wieght on Cambell and tried to slow up. I think that is exactly the way the rule is suppose to be followed. Even if the or was an and.

  23. It was a good non call. Flagging that for 15 yards would have been an injustice simply for the fact that the Eagles shut them down on 4th down and it would have given the skins an undeserving second chance.
    It makes sense that the college rules allow a WR to only get one foot down to make a catch but when you get to the pros, you need two feet down.
    However, it seems backwards that the NFL has a more strict policy for tackling and QB protection than college. You can’t ask a guy who has been taught to get after the QB his whole life that he needs to make sure he lowers his intensity level when making it to the pros.

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