The officials called it a chop block. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians called it the dirtiest play he has seen in 37 years of coaching. While the NFL has yet to address the latter, the league office agrees on the former.
“The play was penalized because it was an illegal chop block, a violation of Rule 12, Section 2, Article 3 items c) and d) highlighted below,” NFL spokesman Michael Signora said Monday. “The officials threw the flag for the ‘reverse chop.’ Julius Thomas blocked Calais Campbell ‘in the area of the thigh or lower,’ as specified by rule, and Ryan Clady engages Campbell high ‘simultaneously or immediately after the block’ by Thomas, resulting in the penalty.
“The play also violated part c) of the rule, known as a ‘lure.’ While Thomas chops Campbell, Clady ‘confronts the defensive player in a pass-blocking posture but is not physically engaged with the defensive player.’
“A decision on a possible fine would be made later this week.”
The explanation isn’t surprising, but the fact remains that Thomas fired off the line into Campbell’s legs with a cut block. That’s what caused the MCL injury, and that’s what Arians dubbed as dirty.
Cut blocks in certain settings aren’t illegal; for decades, the cut block has provided a smaller player with a device for effectively blocking a large opponent. Over the years, the NFL gradually has carved away at the circumstances were cut blocks are allowed.
Maybe the real message from the hit on Campbell is that it’s time to protect defensive players by getting rid of cut blocks completely.