Sanity coming to NFL's roughing the passer rules?

Brian Tinsman
October 04, 2018 - 9:40 pm

Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports


On Thursday night, NFL fans got a first look at a more reasonable interpretation of the new roughing the passer rules as the New England Patriots hosted the Indianapolis Colts.

The new rule prohibits defenders from landing on the quarterback with "all or most of" a player's body weight. This has caused great consternation throughout the preseason and first four weeks, causing players, coaches and fans to seek a more sane interpretation.

In the first quarter of Thursday Night Football, Colts quarterback Andrew Luck faked a handoff and dropped back to pass, with three Patriots defenders in pursuit. Two hit home with full bodyweight on Luck, but no penalties:

FOX Sports NFL rules analyst Mike Pereira weighed in shortly after, saying that this was the league's new interpretation of the rule:

Pereira is referring to a conference call between the NFL's Competition Committee and officiating crews that occurred before Week 4.

According to NFL insider Ian Rapaport, the committee sought to reduce penalties without changing the exact definition of the rule. 

"The NFL competition committee chose not to push for any changes to the roughing the passer rule that has caused so much controversy this season," Rapaport wrote. "No changes were proposed regarding defenders putting their body weight on a quarterback when making a hit or sack.

"However, according to several people who were on the call, the expectation is that there will be fewer roughing the passer calls moving forward. The league is emphasizing to officials they need to be sure a player applied all or most of his body weight when making a hit before throwing the flag, sources said."

Through the first three weeks of play, 30 roughing the passer penalties had been called, compared to just 20 through the first three weeks in 2017.

The Redskins have thus far avoided penalties in those situations, but have benefited from the rule. In Week 3 vs. Green Bay, Alex Smith took a sack from stalwart Packers defender Clay Matthews, his third of the season. Here's a look at the play:

It's really unclear whether or not this type of hit would still be illegal under the new interpretation of the rule or not, but expect this rule to be in flux all season long.


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