NFL confirms: Read-option QBs can be hit like runners


Players on the Packers have been talking about hitting 49ers quarterback Colin Kaepernick, and San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh is not happy about that. But the NFL has some bad news for Harbaugh: Taking hits comes with the territory of being a read-option quarterback.

In an officiating video distributed to the media, NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino says that read-option quarterbacks can be hit like runners, even if they don’t have the ball. If a quarterback who handed off or pitched the ball is still carrying out a fake in a running posture, he can be tackled the same way he would be if he still had the ball.

“He is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play,” Blandino said. “The quarterback makes the pitch, he’s still a runner — he can be hit like a runner until he’s clearly out of the play.”

Blandino noted that if the offense is running a play designed to keep the defense guessing about who’s getting the ball, it’s only fair for the defense to be allowed to tackle both players who might have the ball.

“The quarterback and the running back, they’re both treated as runners. We don’t know who has the football, we don’t know who’s going to take it, so both players are treated as runners,” Blandino said.

For all the talk of the league office protecting defenseless quarterbacks, Blandino made clear that quarterbacks are only considered defenseless in certain situations, and running the read option is not one of those situations.

“The basic concept is, the quarterback position is not defenseless throughout the down. It’s the posture he presents that will dictate his protections,” Blandino said.

Still, that doesn’t mean defenders get unlimited free shots on quarterbacks on all read-option plays. If it’s obvious that the quarterback doesn’t have the ball anymore, he can’t get hit: The rules say that if a defender drills a quarterback after he has handed off or pitched the ball and isn’t taking a running posture anymore, it’s unnecessary roughness.

“If the quarterback is out of the pocket, he’s clearly out of the play, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted,” Blandino said.

The officials will have a tough job determining where the line is drawn between playing tough, physical defense on read-option quarterbacks, and unnecessarily contacting a quarterback who doesn’t have the ball anymore. It’s probably safe to say that the Packers and the 49ers won’t agree about where that line should be drawn on Sunday.

122 responses to “NFL confirms: Read-option QBs can be hit like runners

  1. I definitely like this ‘ruling’ by the NFL. Its absolutely sensible. I wish they would also apply it more to play-action plays because nothing makes less sense than a penalty for holding for tackling a running back after he acted like he had the ball.

  2. This is how the rule should be. Why should these running option QBs be given special rules protecting them?

    But if the Packers want to win this game they need to come out and play physical defense like they did a few years ago when they started the season in Philly against Kolb/Vick. Having big Jolly back and Nick Perry back will help. This young corner Micah Hyde looks like an excellent player near the line of scrimmage think he’ll eventually be a very good strong safety in this league.

  3. All players should be treated as the “runners” soon the QB will be wearing a RED SHIRT and won’t be allowed to be hit at all and the DLINE will have to count to 5 MISSISSIPPI till they can rush the QB.

  4. So now Harbaugh not only looks like a whiner, but also an idiot for not knowing the rules regarding an offense he’s run for 1/2 a season….

  5. Amazing how everyone but Harbaugh (the head coach of an NFL team) already understood the rules on this.

  6. How does this square with the penalty and huge fine JAmes Harrison took for wiping out Colt McCoy … they all made the point that, until he crossed the line of scrimmage, McCoy was a QB and subject to the defenseless rules.

  7. This is where media, writers and non football players look stupid. If any of you don’t understand what the read option looks like then please do comment. There is virtually NOO DIFFERENCE between read option and play action from shotgun.

    How on earth for you tell the difference, well I’ll explain, only of the qb is running essentially a ” dive option ” and running down the line of scrimmage is the qb eligible for contact.

    If in shotgun, the qb is basically holding a play fake with the option to run, hand-off, or pass. There is no difference between, Manning, Brady,Brees, Wilson, RG3, Kaep, and Newton.. As long as play games are legal, they cannot hit qbs. Just bc the qb had the option to run like every single play fake in the history of football, doesn’t give the defender the right to hit a qb once you ball is out of his hands.

    If you do not understand that, do not comment. It’s virtually impossible to tell th the difference, except we ALL KNOW, non Mobil qbs are not running. That’s the only difference. Good luck hitting qbs this way bc is puts basically every qb in harms way. Bc now the defender only has to say he thought the qb WA a possible runner. So when slow Brady or Manning get molly wapped bc they held a play fake we’ll see what the NFL has to say then .

    The read option is really a pistol read, calling it read option is inaccurate and is why the keep getting different answers. It’s not going anywhere as long as the qb can pass, run, and has a good run game. Anyone claiming otherwise doesn’t understand football is a ever changing sport, and or does not have a mobile qb so their in denial. We all know that is true.

  8. If you think Harbaugh doesn’t understand the rule you’re crazy. He’s clearly trying to get in the refs’ heads bc Kaep will be pulling up (standing straight) after handing it off and Harbaugh is trying to reinforce that being hit at that point would be a late hit. Anything that helps put doubt in the refs’ or hitters’ heads is good for the 49ers offense.

  9. Let’s just settle this among ourselves, in the manner we all know is correct:
    Vick – can be hit always, just cause…(and I’m an Eagle fan);
    Kaepernick – same, plus he’s too quick and the fat defensive lineman need to equalize that;
    Sanchez – can be hit always, cause he’s a whiner
    Romo – same;
    Rivers – same, but smack him twice, the big crybaby;
    Cutler — same as Rivers;
    Brady – don’t even look mad at him, and god forbid don’t say anything nasty, AND don’t ever even try to hit him, cause 12 flags will come fluttering in from the refs that Kraft owns and a few flags from Belichuck and his minions in the stands;
    Rodgers – he doesn’t run, automatic flag if you hit him;
    Peyton – same as Rodgers, plus he has that sensitive neck;
    Eli – pound the living crap outta him (I’m an Eagles fan, after all) and if the refs throw flags, pound them more;
    RGIII – he will say he’s fair game, Shananananahan will disagree, and there will be a fight on the sidelines, but nobody will be able to catch him unless he’s on crutches, so it’s pointless anyway;
    The Rest of the QB’s – who cares?

  10. Like Mike Tomlin said when asked about the read option, “We look forward to eliminating it!”

  11. I get it. But the NFL is all about offense and the read option puts points on the board, which the NFL loves to see. I would think they would want to keep Kap and RGIII on the field as much as possible since it seems like they are the media stars of late. It just seems to go against everything the NFL stands for. Hitting QB’s, potentially limiting offenses? Did Tagliabue come out of retirement and overthrow Goodell?

  12. Packer fan here, but to hit this guy you first have to be able to touch him. I don’t think they laid a finger on him in the playoffs.

  13. So, nothing is different, except that NFL teams will have had an entire offseason to prepare to defend this offense, and they now know that the best way to do that is to hit the QB with the free end and let the interior defense take care of the RB.

    And all QBs are eligible to be hit if they’re carrying out a run fake, the difference is that designed play-action passes aren’t predicated on allowing a defender to come free in the backfield, which is a key component of the pistol/read option.

  14. long as the QB raises his hands to demonstrate he doesn’t have the ball, after giving to RB on a R/O play. Then he can’t be hit, and if they do hit him, then that’s a free 15 yards.

  15. YES ! They should. You wanna be tough… then suck it up QB’s. That is going to go the way of The Wishbone because of the same thing. QB’s are going to get killed. Waiting to make a decision micro moments just before someone drills me into the ground is not going to give me a long shelf life. Hell no. Fast play calling and hurry up is one thing. Just getting pow wowed is a totally different deal.

  16. You could hit him last year too, didn’t make a difference. The 49ers design their plays so that Kap doesn’t get hit unless he’s running over a safety (and then spiking the ball in his face).

  17. Their is not difference between shot gun play action a day pistil read option. Only difference is if the qb has the ability to run. However that is not decided by the defender who wishes to hit him and claim the qb was a runner. Guess what on every play ever played the qb was a potential runner. No matter the setup. They cannot hit qbs unless their clear runners, not after handoffs either. The problem is that pistol read option plays give three options to every play. The defense is at a major disadvantage bc they can go crazy and hot anyone just to scare them. If that was the case was sent personal fouls on Manning, and or Brady or a repeat of bounty gate of trying to scare the qb.

    U cannot just smash a qb every play, you can of he’s in the act of holding a fake or is a runner. That’s not been the problem thus far. The problem is the qb chooses how-to attack the defender and that same defender had to think and react instead of just go full speed. Most pistol read option plays go the rb, bc slowing that DE or lb gives an extra blocker in the whole.

    Not knowing or understanding the difference between a runner and a facilitater is a major major major problems for many of you. Just because most teams don’t do it doesn’t mean it’s a fad. As long as the qb can read defenses as well as is a good Passer with any type of mobility then it will work. They qb doesn’t have to be fast either JUST take what the defenses gives to you.

    Lol silly packer fans think their team has an answer to it. Lol good one. I’m not even a niners fan in the slightest. You don’t understand football if you don’t understand what I’m saying. I played high level, u cannot just use homerism and apply it to everything.

  18. the NFL will order the referees to throw a flag on any defender who gets within 5 yards of their golden child BOB g 3 this season, you can bet on that. BOB will fake being hit out of bounds 50 times this season and the refs will throw a flag and the defender out of the game.

  19. Why is it sooo difficult for some of you to understand the rule? Do you actually watch the games to understand what the read option is and how it works? i think some of these comments are from 2nd graders.

  20. With Darrell Green making the comment this morning that the Skins beat Cunningham 90% of the time (even though Cunningham was 11-7 vs. Wash in his career), I am pleased to advise that I have debunked one of this site’s most perplexing mysteries.

    The logical voice character IS the one and only Darrell Green. Everyone…please welcome the hall of famer to our discussions.

  21. wcdunkenfield says:
    Sep 5, 2013 5:29 PM
    “Sanchez – can be hit always, cause he’s a whiner”


  22. This ruling won’t make a difference for the teams with true read-option QBs, like SF and WAS. Their opponents will find that out on Sunday.

  23. 49ersalldaway
    “So then by their own admissions, if a QB is carrying out a fake on a hand off like he might be running a play action, he is fair game as well?”

    I would say no. During play-action, the QB is dropping back to throw, not making any attempt to take off with it and run.

  24. Haha look at the good old boys club of old owners who do not have athletic QB’s trying to squash the read option and pistol in the NFL..

    Now I know why all the coaches always said it wouldn’t work in the NFL… Cause they won’t let it!

  25. allidoiswin55…’re incorrect in one detail that I noticed. The pistol is merely a formation. Basically it’s a single back I formation with the qb in shotgun. That’s it.

  26. Duh. Imagine if a defender pulled up and let a QB run by him bc he wasn’t totally sure if he had the ball. Football would be even more ruined.

  27. Wait, I forgot one significant mention:
    Roethelisbergererer — you can hit him any time you want, but you are only going to injure yourself. Besides, if he runs, your defense is pretty much out of place on coverage to begin with…

  28. So, if Tom Brady hands off and fakes a boot leg and gets drilled (without the ball), that will draw a flag, i take it, because he is not running a read option offense. Makes sense.

  29. good explanation. pretty easy to distinguish whether he can be hit or a defender doesn’t have to second guess if he can hit the qb or not. finally, a rule that makes sense

  30. The same rule was in place last season and it wont make any differents, packers fans. you have to be able to touch the QB to hit him. The 49ers will expose green bay 43-6. Dom Capers should quit now and save whats left of his name.

  31. Wow you mean that a rule that should be in effect is actually in effect the correct way. I’m shocked they didn’t switch it to if a read QB is playing that style then he can be touched at all and the defenders will have to actually pick him up an gently place him back on his sideline so that he does not get winded running to the sideline

  32. The pistol is the future, get familiar with it. Jim might even throw a little diamond in there too. People never thought the WCO would stick either. But good hates BEST right Kaep!

  33. Stop with all the play action anaolgies. If a QB is tackled after play action, it’s called a sack – nothing even remotely illegal about that. This clarification applies to the read option only.

  34. So basically teams can kill the read option now by just tackling the QB every time regardless. Makes sense to make it easy now fit them./heaven forbid they but on a fake

  35. Where was this ruling when Ndamukong Suh got flagged for SHOVING Jay Cutler to the ground past the line of scrimmage on a QB scramble? FML.

  36. Harbaugh makes 3 kinds of statements to the media:

    1. Words that mean nothing.
    2. Lies.
    3. Advocacy/”politics.”

    He is shameless about it. And I love it. If a coach has to speak to the press, why shouldn’t he only say things that will help them win? What is the purpose of truth or transparency in this situation? Transparency tends to lead to Rex Ryan-style media circuses. Harbaugh’s comments remind me of a certain sourpuss in NE, who says all kinds of nonsense/nothing, and has done quite well for his team.

    BTW with all this attention being paid to read-option, it would not surprise me if they run it little or not at all on Sunday.

  37. To the mensa that said Rodgers doesn’t run, you need to watch more football.

    He’s not a running QB, but he generally scrambles 4 or 5 times a game for 20 to 25 yards. In each of his 5 years as a starter he’s had a 20+ yard run.

  38. judsonjr says: Sep 5, 2013 6:28 PM

    To the mensa that said Rodgers doesn’t run, you need to watch more football.


    It was a joke, son, just a joke.

    Rodgers runs well. Just that he’s not known for being a running QB. At least not like RGIII…

  39. “chi01town says: Sep 5, 2013 6:06 PM

    The same rule was in place last season and it wont make any differents, packers fans. you have to be able to touch the QB to hit him. The 49ers will expose green bay 43-6. Dom Capers should quit now and save whats left of his name.”

    Shocking that a Bears fan doesn’t know how to spell “difference”. Sorry to burst your bubble but Clay Matthews got a sack on Kap in that playoff game so once again you don’t know what your talking about.

    Trust me when I say that GB didn’t know how to defend the read option last year but they do now, just watch, if Kap runs any read option hes gonna take a couple of head shots for his trouble.

    If hes a runner helmet to helmet is allowed…

  40. trollaikman8 | Sep 5, 2013, 5:50 PM EDT
    I hope Kaep, Russell, and RGKnee get knocked into next week.

    Oh you mean like LaVar Arrington did to Aikman? Just checking…. Cowboy fans please sit down! You and your team are irrelevant.

  41. So the blind fans know. The seahawks my team run the read option 6% of the time so in an nfl game that’s about 4-attemps. San Francisco runs it at almost the exact same amount as the seahawks.

    So even though u can’t just kill qbs every play like many of you would like to believe, they will still beat your teams bc they didn’t rely on in the first place.

    If a qb attempts to hand off, and you hit him every after he’s handed off or passed the ball, you will get a penalty and fine. This is nothing new, this was implemented last season. You can’t kill the qb unless he declares as a runner or is involved in an option to run and is still in play, not of he’s handed off and they back is down field. That’s the same as hitting qbs after they pass. Wait in see how that works out for your team. Focusing so much on read option when it’s a very small part of many offenses like Seattle and SF. Puts your team at a disadvantage in other areas. Good luck with that.

  42. 49ers are more physical of a team and with much better talented group of players then Pokers. I don’t see Pokers are beating 49ers. You can hit the QB if you catch him 🙂 He is not an ordinary read option QB. He can set Pokers up to draw 15 yeard penalties all day long. 🙂
    I think Pokers trying to distract 49ers to hide their intentions of using read option plays of 49ers against 49ers. 🙂

  43. This was a no-brainer… if the Quarterback advances the ball from the shotgun, he can get hit. He is no different than a RB on a play action pass… those guys get lit up all the time. In a play action fake, the quarterbacks goal is to throw the ball down field (he does not tuck the ball and run), but in the read-option, the quarterback acts as a RB who can throw. It would be like crying about a RB taking a direct snap then handing it off in the wildcat, only to get lit up, ball or no ball. Get over it niner fans, you’re guy is a runner first when they are in the read-option… Hopefully, the Redskins start running a real offense, RG3 is more than capable of doing it and he isn’t a Rookie anymore, no more gimmicks.

  44. News Flash – Harbaugh has a change of mind and insists his QB goes and works out more often with more weights.


    Let’s see if these Read/Option QBs are real football players!!!

  45. many people here aren’t understanding the rule. the QB can get hit IF they carry out a fake. however, the easy solution to this is, if the QB hands the ball off and stands still, they CANNOT be hit. haven’t you all seen the ravens try to do this in the super bowl, and kaepernick never took anything harder than a 2 hand shove from suggs, and it allowed Gore to run all over them. he averaged 6 yards a carry on read option runs, because if you are going to send the outside guy at the QB every play the QB will hand the ball off every single time, not move, and have protection from getting hit. and then you have 8 blockers on 8 defenders which is a huge disadvantage to the defense. furthermore the majority of Kaepernicks rushing yards last year came on pass plays. it really puts the defense at a disadvantage when you are taking such a huge risk playing man coverage. the packers stayed in man coverage, and kaepernick took off whenever he wanted and gashed them.

  46. As a Packer fan… I need to remind our defense that first.. we must catch him! In January we couldn’t do that very well…

  47. Doesn’t matter, watching DE’s try to get Bobby G was like watching me try to tackle Barry Sanders….. No worries

  48. This is a good rule,but it is going to be really difficult for officials.

    Not really. They basically said, “If it looks like a duck, and walks and quacks like a duck. It’s probably a duck!”

  49. Why do I think after someone knocks RG3 into the middle of next week we’ll be reading a new article where the NFL clarifies that option read quarterbacks cannot be hit.

  50. @allidoiswin

    Preach on sir. Thanks for taking the time to explain the read option concept to the masses who don’t get it and the consequences for hitting a qb without the ball no matter who he is. Unbelievable so many on a football website cannot understand this. I guess this is something that you Seahawk fans and us Niners fans can agree on.

  51. deddmunnie says: Sep 5, 2013 5:56 PM

    Haha look at the good old boys club of old owners who do not have athletic QB’s trying to squash the read option and pistol in the NFL..

    Now I know why all the coaches always said it wouldn’t work in the NFL… Cause they won’t let it!
    They wont let it because the majority of NFL fans find it boring and stupid.

  52. Has there ever been a guy who has a rep as a hard ass been such a whinny bitch as Coach Harbaugh? Can’t wait til Sunday night should GB pull off the upset. Or if Kapernick gets decked running the read option. Fourty-Whinner fans, you’ll wish Harbaugh had kept Smith by week 3.

  53. (In my best grumpy old guy voice)

    Back in my day as a DE if you had the QB in a option O you were taught to put your helmet under his chin and hit them high to screw up the pitch. Think that would fly?

  54. The read option in the NFL is a fad. Why is it prevalent in college? So many runners playing quarterback.

    Mike Vick swears he’s going to stop being a pocket passer. He never was. And he’s never been a quarterback. After all, he showed his priority by saying he didn’t want to slide feet first to protect his legs. A quarterback should protect his head and shoulders.

    RGIII should never have been exposed like he was by the skins last year. Run to escape, slide when in danger.

    Those that are drawing attention to the play-action pass are missing the point. QB either hands the ball off, throws the ball, runs to escape pressure, while looking to throw downfield, then if has daylight – run till you are in danger and go out of bounds or slide.

  55. Cannot wait to see these genius defensive players tackling the QB on every play while the running back scores from 50 yards out. That brilliant strategy will last about 10 minutes.

  56. Kevin Lynch of the San Francisco Chronicle has the answer. In an article entitled “What’s behind the NFL’s failure to protect read-option quarterbacks like Colin Kaepernick?,” here’s the key paragraph:

    “ONE MERELY NEEDS TO LOOK AT THE LEAGUE’S COMPETITION COMMITTEE MEMBERS, WHERE MANY OF THE RULE CHANGES EMERGE. THEY ARE ALL STAFFED BY TEAMS WITH DROPBACK QUARTERBACKS – Mike Tomlin (Steelers), Stephen Jones (Cowboys), Rich McKay (Falcons), Jeff Fisher (Rams), Marvin Lewis (Bengals), John Mara (Giants), Mark Murphy (Packers), Ozzie Newsome (Ravens) and Rick Smith (Texans).”

    Coincidence? Nope. More like a conspiracy by jealous competitors.

  57. raymondtx says:
    Sep 5, 2013 6:06 PM
    Why are the packers talking about “hitting/punishing Kaepernick this week? They sure couldnt do it last year.

    So you’re one of those “geniuses” that think last year = this year, huh? If that’s the case why even play the games? Let’s just give the Lombardi Trophy to the Raven again and all the players on every team can just kick back and relax this year.

  58. Packers are scared! Go ahead and piss these dudes off, it’s a bar fight your team won’t win.

  59. In other words, nothing has changed. The option will continue to be defended the same way it has been for decades. Hit the quarterback ball or no ball, see if they run it again.

    Football is here baby!

  60. albinorhino49 says:
    Sep 5, 2013 8:03 PM
    Packers are scared! Go ahead and piss these dudes off, it’s a bar fight your team won’t win.

    Actually, it sounds like Harbaugh is the scared one: trying to get a rule to be interpreted differently this year than it has in years past in a feeble attempt to give his offense an advantage.

    Admit it. It will be tougher sledding for the 9ers offense without Crabtree and Manningham.

  61. This is why the NFL doesn’t generally run the option type gimmick offenses. QBs get hurt when they run with the ball. You can’t pay someone 20 million and set them up for injury trying mimmick college and high school ball. This whole read option, running QB fad will last like the wild-cat when it was proven not the way to play the pro game. Get your fill of the Griffins and Kaeprnicks, they are not going to last playing they way they do.

  62. It’s funny how these are the same exact rules as last year, as someone else pointed out. RGIII actually took to raising his hands in the air after giving to Alf Morris on a R/O play. He still got hit a few times and the Skins got an easy 15. The R/O is ill. Try to stop it.

  63. …lets see now
    ej manuel

  64. The vast majority of you that judge RG3 and label him as a runner didn’t really watch the games. The college style option is not quite the same as the Redskins version. The read option sets up the play action and the run game. and we didn’t run as frequently as most are led to believe. That’s the deception. That’s the threat that keeps teams guessing.The only 100 % designed run play for Rg3 that I saw was that 76 yard beauty against the Vikings. And this rule is nothing new.The run option will still work because defenders will still hesitate. Now I worry about our receivers because most of the passes from the read option go over the middle. People say lay wood on the QB and it will stop it but if the ball is clearly out then you really can’t unload on the QB. You have to lay wood on receivers and we see how touchy that is now. The only thing that hurt RG3 was his unwillingness to slide…..down field. Besides Pitt had some success mainly because of the inclement weather and dropped passes ( 10-12) + 2 dropped TD’s. so all I can say is….if your team is playing the ‘Skins……pray for rain.HTTR !!!!

  65. I love the people on here complaining about Harbaugh. He’s better at his job than anyone posting on this board is at theirs. He is putting it out there that his qb isn’t to be hit.

    I’m not a fan of either of these teams but wouldn’t the Pack have to catch Kaep to be able to hit him? Oh right they tried that.

    As for RGIII he had like 10 games last year where he threw for less than 220 yards. If he’s not a running quarterback then what the f is he? A hand-offer?

  66. Let’s put skorts on the players who can’t be hit…..without doubt it makes it easier for the refs…

    Practice….a red jersey will be replaced by skorts…

    It might make the league yet more money… used skorts…the ladies will love it…

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