Exception to “peel back” block rule may apply to Slauson hit


The NFL has fined Jets guard Matt Slauson for his ACL-tearing blow to Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, reportedly claiming that the hit constitutes an illegal “peel back” block.

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.

19 responses to “Exception to “peel back” block rule may apply to Slauson hit

  1. If I was his agent, I’d search through NFL films for ten more guys who did the exact same thing and didn’t get fined because the opponent wasn’t hurt.

  2. The scabs (pardon me) replacement refs would have caught that. Are we sure they still aren’t out there?

  3. Sheesh, you need a lawyer just to interpret the rule book. I’ve never seen such double talk in my life. I have to imagine that Jim Thorpe never envisioned his game would turn into this.

  4. One should not have to “lawyer up” to justify a questionable block. That used to be called clipping and carried a 15 yard penalty. Apparently, the NFL only cares for safety of offensive players of certain positions. Defensive players and all lineman do not have a high enough profile to have rules in place to protect them.

  5. Somebody please explain why a technique with a high liklihood of injuring a player is legal? I don’t play football but why is diving at someone’s knees even considered legal? Why don’t blocks have to be above the knees like tackles to the QB? No one wants injuries so why don’t we just accept linebackers and lineman making tackles and force offenses to come up with something else. Is more offense worth heinous, unnecessary injuries? People say Cushing will come back, but he will need that joint replaced someday and will walk funny when he’s old. I’m all for hard play but cut blocks, chop blocks, leading with the helmet? The players themselve’s should know this shouldn’t fly. Nuts.

  6. also 10k? can we stop pretending like this guy actually got punished? thats like 1/6th of his game check right?

    if the nfl wants to make the game safer they need to start suspending people for illegal plays that have the potential for serious injury.

  7. It seems to me the the near shoulder more towards the back side of his leg. Usually a good way to judge is did the blocker get his head on the front side of the body. In this instance he did, but it still appears that the shoulder hit the knee on the backside. I still think that the way he went out and tried to block Cushing but then missed him, and then turned and cracked back on him is against the very spirit of the rule. If you’re going to hit a guy from that angle you have to hit him at or above the waist. Had he even hit his hips it would’ve been overlooked. But he was just playing the game. It doesn’t seem like ill intent. Just unfortunate results for both parties.

  8. You know, as soon as I saw that my first reaction was ‘wow, can’t believe he just got away with a peel back block’……

  9. I wonder if there is a known minimum threshold of how much money they expect to collect in fines. Just curious. Kind of like how much money municipals expect in traffic fines.

  10. people that post in forums that have never played football should keep their opinion on rules to themselves – hitting below the waist from the side or behind or in the front is legal in the tackle box and as long as another player isnt engaged with the defensive player-ie the high low blocks the broncos did for years that crippled many players – if you have to go back and scrutinize the film to see just how close he is to the tackle box you have a lot of problems and please go back to every game film ever and fine every guy that has done this

  11. when you play defense you know that you can be hit in that area at any time it is up to you to keep moving and protect yourself and cushing Im assuming has played that position his entire life and has been hit like that countless times but never got hurt – and another thing you are much more likely to tear an acl getting hit from the side than from the back

  12. It’s in the rulebook, right between the tuck rule and simultaneous catch. It’s all in the the section that only exists whenever the NFL needs to come up with an explanation for justifying a call.

  13. also 10k? can we stop pretending like this guy actually got punished? thats like 1/6th of his game check right?


    Well, it depends how you look at it. I bet if you were fined 1% of your annual gross salary you would consider it a punishment .

  14. fortunefavorsthebolden says: Oct 11, 2012 8:51 PM

    also 10k? can we stop pretending like this guy actually got punished? thats like 1/6th of his game check right?

    The guy makes 615,000 this year. Him and his wife moved back in with his parents during the lockout to save money. Might be a lot of money to Joe Schmo but when your average NFL player lasts 3 years its nothing in the long run. This WILL hurt him in the pocket and its unfortunate Cushing got hurt but that wasn’t his intent nor should he be fined. They wouldn’t even looked at the play if not the injury outcome. Stupid play yes, intentional no. The NFL just makes ish up as they go along.

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