It’s been a strange week for NFL rivalries.
First, the Bears made a proposal that would address the manner in which the Packers lost the NFC title game, without a chance to possess the ball in overtime. Now, the Steelers are showing empathy for the Ravens.
Art Rooney II agrees that Baltimore got a raw deal in the playoff game against the Patriots, when the Patriots creatively deployed ineligible and eligible receivers and combined the tactic with a no-huddle offense to confuse the Ravens defense.
“I didn’t think it was handled the right way when they ran the play,” Rooney told the team’s official website. “We have these rules where a player has to report [to the referee]. The referee is supposed to make sure the defense is notified on who reports. I thought Baltimore had a legitimate gripe about how that was handled.”
The Competition Committee has proposed requiring any player who reports as ineligible to line up inside the tackle box. Against the Ravens, New England made running back Shane Vereen ineligible, and then he lined up in the slot. An apparently ineligible player then ran a pass route while Vereen stayed behind the line of scrimmage.
“Maybe this isn’t the way to address it,” Rooney said. “The other way would be just to take more time to make sure that the defense understands what is going on. It’s probably just as easy to eliminate it.”
He’s right, especially since the use of otherwise eligible players in eligible positions (and vice versa) was originally intended to allow teams to reconfigure in the event of injuries to one specific position group. If that device is going to be used by choice and not by necessity, the NFL must ensure that the defense has a fair opportunity to understand what’s happening, and to counter it.