Clay Martin’s intervention during live play isn’t uncommon, but definitely looked unusual

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During Thursday night’s game between the Buccaneers and the Eagles, Fox cameras caught referee Clay Martin keeping Philadelphia defensive end Derek Barnett and Tampa Bay quarterback Tom Brady apart following a turnover.

But the play was still alive, and Brady could have tried to get in position to make a tackle. (Or, as the case may be, to throw a shoulder into an unsuspecting member of the opposing team at the tail end of the play.) Barnett and Brady were giving each other a mild case of “the business” as the two men jostled, with Brady throwing an elbow at Barnett early in the exchange. Martin tried to break it up, before the whistle blew.

And this wasn’t a case of Barnett looking to take a free shot at Brady. At one point after Martin separated the two men, Brady began to move generally in the direction of the action. If Brady is doing that, he’s fair game to be blocked.

Although a quarterback qualifies as “defenseless” following a change in possession, he’s not immune from being hit, legally or illegally. And there’s no provision in the rules allowing a football referee to act like a boxing referee, breaking up a scrum and sending the fighters to their neutral corners during the live action.

That said, multiple sources tell PFT that it’s common for officials to step between players away from the action. It’s known as “preventive officiating.” The goal is to prevent trouble, if possible.

It makes sense, on the surface. But should that be the way it goes? Should a referee do anything between the snap and the whistle, other than blowing the whistle or throwing a flag? if Barnett was going to illegally hit Brady after the change in possession, that’s Barnett’s prerogative. He’d then be subject to a penalty, a fine, maybe a suspension.

Regardless, the officials should be bystanders during the play, not peacemakers. The break-it-up function should only kick in, if at all, after a play ends.

14 responses to “Clay Martin’s intervention during live play isn’t uncommon, but definitely looked unusual

  1. Refs are there to keep the game from getting out of hand. If ANYTHING happened to ANYBODY because a D Lineman and a QB hit each other after an INT, I’m 1000% convinced that somebody will get blamed/ ejected/ hurt/ etc.

    Kudos to Clay Martin for doing the right thing. Even if it’s a disguised middle finger towards the rule book.

  2. The people supporting the intervention are the same ones who claim the NFL has gone soft.

    The ref was wrong!

  3. I can’t stand Brady. Taking full advantage of the protections given to quarterbacks is one thing. I can even accept the constant whining to refs for questionable flags. But if that’s your style, don’t play dirty by throwing elbows and shoulders every chance you get. Really, Tom? You’re 44 years old, and your kids are old enough to see that for what it is. He’s lucky that he didn’t get blown up the moment he advanced toward the ball as a tackler. I wish he had…then maybe he’d think twice about abusing his protections in the future.

  4. Give me a break it’s not uncommon. If that had been Jalen Hurts, then he would have gotten leveled. He was protected because he is Tom Brady, the face and Godfather of the NFL.

  5. Brady is 44 years old, Barnett is 25 years old. Elder abuse is wrong, good for Clay Martin for preventing it.

  6. Brady could have shot Barnett on the 50 yard line and the penalty still would have gone to Barnett.
    And Fournette head butting an Eagle drew a penalty for the Eagles.

    Do the Eagles win if the referees are fair? Hell, no.
    But it might make for a better game.

  7. The problem is that we used to see it often that after an INT the defense takes that as an opportunity to take a shot at the QB away from the play. Now this wasn’t close to a shot by Barnett, just grabbing and pushing Brady further from the play, but to Brady it was still rooted in that concept of going after him away from the play as much as is allowed in the rules, and the official chose to try to get them to break it up instead of throwing a cheap penalty on either of them. I’d say well handled in the end all around. Barnett doesn’t do anything aside from grab and push, Brady stays competitive even in that situation and tries to get out of it, the Bucs protect their QB, and no penalty is thrown on something minor. Secondly, you’re wrong with Brady “throwing a shoulder” in the Cowboys game, the player literally sprinted into Brady while Brady didn’t move a step. What was Brady supposed to do, cower?

  8. Making a mountain of a molehill. People just trying to gin up the ref’s “intervention” (which was at best minimal) to stir more controversy around Brady.

  9. It seemed like the ref is just preventing the escalation of the situation, not protecting Brady per se. Brady can take hits, he’s been taking them for 21 years.

  10. Of Brady is a player, the ref should butt out. If Brady is a commodity, then the ref is protecting the interest of the game.

    The question is, what is. Easy? And if he’s the latter than his presence in the game is unfair… as the Patriots are finding out after almost 1.5 seasons without him are starting to show.

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