On Sunday at Charlotte, referee Albert Riveron threw a roughing the passer flag on Packers linebacker Desmond Bishop, who took Panthers quarterback Cam Newton to the ground after an incomplete pass.
On Thursday, Packers coach Mike McCarthy defended Bishop.
“I’ll just say this, the hit that Bishop put on Cam Newton in the game, that’s the highlight tape we showed for our tackling drill today,” McCarthy said, per the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “That’s exactly how you’re supposed to tackle through the offensive ballcarriers.
“I understand there’s judgment involved in that call and that’s fine. But based on my judgment that is a classic example of a perfect tackle.”
Bishop, who has yet to be fined by the league office, has no regrets. “I’d do it the same,” he said.
Bishop and McCarthy seem to think that the flag was thrown because Bishop drove Newton into the ground upon making contact. While there has been no public comment from the league or Riveron regarding the call, the problem seems to be that Bishop put the top of his helmet into Newton’s stomach.
Defenseless players (a term that includes players who have just thrown a pass) cannot be hit in the helmet or with a helmet. Though helmet-to-helmet hits attract most of the attention in this regard, a defensive player can’t hit a defenseless player with a helmet anywhere on the defenseless player’s body. If that wasn’t the reason for the flag, it should have been. And even though Bishop has yet to be fined for the play, the placement of his helmet into Newton’s stomach suggests that he should be.
McCarthy’s characterization of Newton as an “offensive ballcarrier” glosses over the reality that Newton was defenseless in that situation, and thus protected from hits to or with the helmet. Once again, then, it seems that teams aren’t teaching this critical distinction to its players.
A ballcarrier — i.e., a guy who is running with the ball — can be hit anywhere. Helmet-to-helmet, shoulder-to-helmet, helmet-to-groin, etc. A defenseless player has special protections. It’s not clear whether teams are accidentally or intentionally ignoring this fact, but between Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson’s insistence that he did nothing wrong on Sunday night when going helmet-to-helmet with Jeremy Maclin and McCarthy’s explanation regarding Bishop’s hit on Newton, there seems to be a disconnect with which the folks who currently are moving from 280 Park Avenue to 345 Park Avenue should be concerned.