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Report: Members of NFL competition committee 'uncomfortable' with roughing the passer rule

·Yahoo Sports Columnist
·2 min read
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The NFL has a problem when it comes to the number of ticky-tack roughing the passer flags thrown thus far this season, and even the men who had a hand in creating it have realized it.

At least, some of them have. But there may not be anything that can be done about it.

NFL competition committee members uncomfortable

NFL Network reporter Judy Battista wrote on Tuesday that “several” members of the league’s eight-member competition committee are uncomfortable with the way the group’s decision to make roughing the passer a point of emphasis this season is playing out.

Packers linebacker Clay Matthews reacts to his penalty after tackling Redskins quarterback Alex Smith on Sunday, his third roughing the passer penalty of the season. (AP)
Packers linebacker Clay Matthews reacts to his penalty after tackling Redskins quarterback Alex Smith on Sunday, his third roughing the passer penalty of the season. (AP)

After Green Bay Packers star Aaron Rodgers missed most of last season to a broken clavicle after being tackled by Minnesota’s Anthony Barr, the committee decided to alter the roughing the passer rule to say that defenders could not land on quarterbacks with their full body weight.

It’s a good idea in theory, but almost impossible in practice, as Miami’s William Hayes can tell you.

Battista said committee members are especially bothered by the much-discussed Week 2 call on the Packers’ Clay Matthews on Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins. The flag on Matthews took an interception off the board and allowed Minnesota to come back to tie the game.

The league’s current officiating head defended the call, while Dean Blandino and Mike Pereira, the previous two heads of officiating, said the Matthews flag “sets a dangerous precedent.”

Call scheduled next week

Battista reports that the competition committee – members are Falcons president Rich McKay, Giants owner John Mara, Cowboys president Stephen Jones, Packers president Mark Murphy, Ravens general manager Ozzie Newsome, Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Broncos GM John Elway and Saints coach Sean Payton – has a regularly scheduled conference call next week.

Members Battista spoke to, however, don’t know if anything will change with the rule emphasis; commissioner Roger Goodell may have a say, and pulling back on a rule explicitly meant to protect players may be difficult from an optics standpoint.

But even quarterbacks are questioning the rule, and defensive players are speaking out, saying league honchos care about the safety of only quarterbacks.

How bad is the problem?

After Monday night’s Buccaneers-Steelers game, there have been 34 roughing the passer penalties through the first three weeks of the season, or 48 games.

At that rate, there will be 181 roughing calls this season, nearly double the total number of roughing penalties last season; there were 92 such calls in 2016. (Edited to correct mathematical mistake.)

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