The NFL has not made any actual rule changes in the wake of all the controversy we have seen surrounding roughing the passer calls early in the season, but it sounds like we can still expect to see a difference going forward.
Earlier this week, the NFL Competition Committee met to discuss the new emphasis that has been placed on defenders not driving quarterbacks into the turf or landing on them with all of their body weight. Ian Rapoport of NFL Media reports that no changes were made to the language of the rules, but the league emphasized to officials that they need to be certain before throwing a flag.
Several people who took part in a conference call with the Competition Committee told Rapoport the expectation is there will be fewer roughing the passer calls going forward.
“The ultra-simplified message from the competition committee to officials is this: See the entire act. Make sure you see all of it. If you aren’t sure, don’t throw the flag,” Rapoport said. “The NFL can always review the play later and issue fines if warranted.”
The most controversial roughing the passer call of the season came in Week 2, when Packers linebacker Clay Matthews was flagged for a hit on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. Rapoport notes that NFL officials agreed that should not have been a penalty, and it may have cost Green Bay the win. That’s why Matthews was not fined for the hit or for criticizing the officiating crew after the game.
Going forward, the league wants officials to make sure all of the elements of roughing the passer — including that the defender drove the QB into the ground with all of most of his body weight — are present before throwing a flag. While the NFL would never come out and admit things have been botched early in the season, they have clearly been rattled by the way some fans and players have taunted the new emphasis.
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