At least the calls weren’t dramatic game changers this time.
But as has been the theme throughout much of the first three weeks of the NFL season, roughing the passer penalties were a significant storyline from Monday’s game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
Bucs, Steelers set new mark for roughing penalties
Officials called four roughing penalties during Pittsburgh’s 30-27 win on Monday, which is tied for most in the league in one game since 2001, according to ESPN.
While a couple of them were fairly clear violations of contact with the quarterback’s head, others appeared to fall into the vague new definition of the foul that penalizes defenders for placing too much weight on the quarterback.
Jason Witten not a fan of ‘left-wing’ roughing calls
The calls, as usual, drew the ire of players and fans and inspired a new take on the controversy from “Monday Night Football” analyst and former Dallas Cowboys tight end Jason Witten.
When discussing the bevy of roughing flags with play-by-play announcer Joe Tessitore, Witten delivered the following take.
Found the clip. Here’s Witten calling the roughing the passer rule change “left wing” pic.twitter.com/htLzeRcm79
— Conor Orr 🇦🇶 (@ConorOrr) September 25, 2018
“It’s just gone too far with that rule,” Witten said. “I knew they wanted to make it about the health and safety and protect these quarterbacks. It just seems like we went a little bit to the left wing on that, you know, with our approach of trying to protect.
“Not only are the players frustrated, but the coaches. They don’t know how to coach this. That’s when you have a challenge with this rule.”
Ummm. OK, Jason. Because Democrats don’t like football injuries? Or Republicans don’t care about them?
Wherever Witten was going with that isn’t quite clear.
Sports Illustrated’s Connor Orr, who called out Witten’s take on Twitter, reached out to ESPN, which told him that Witten’s comment “had nothing to do with politics.”
Change coming on roughing penalties?
What is clear is that these penalties are not going away any time soon, no matter how much players, coaches, announcers and fans protest.
The NFL is a stubborn, rigid league not generally wont to adapt in real time. The Washington Post reported Monday that members of the league’s competition committee would like to see the penalties called differently, but have no intention of changing the wording of the rules.
“I’m not sure we can do anything this year,” an anonymous source told The Post.
It appears that the decision makers see the problems and agree that changes need to be made but aren’t willing to put pen to paper this season to enact that change.
Instead, they’re continuing to put the onus on officials to make difficult interpretations of a rule that’s vague and confusing to begin with.
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