Ask the Official: October 10, 2012
Posted by “the Ref”
William B. writes…
I’m having an online discussion about a hit that occured in a recent High School game.
My position is that since the tackler makes the hit and first point of contact is with the helmet AND it is directly to the helmet of the other player, it was clearly illegal. The other person in the debate claims that since the tackler’s spine in in neutral position and (in their opinion) the helmet to helmet contact is unintentional, the hit is legal. Plus, there was no penalty called on the play, so it must have been legal. Here’s a link to a photo of the hit in question.
The defender (in green) makes first contact with the receiver (white) after the ball had been dropped by the receiver (ball can be seen in photo to left). To me this is potentially as dangerous to the tackler as it is to the receiver (who by the way had a concussion and multiple stitches because his lower teeth and braces were driven through his lower lip. Thanks in advance!
Based on the photo that you have supplied, I believe that illegal helmet to helmet contact (Rule 9-4-3) could have been could have been called on this play but it is not a certainty. I would have to see the entire play in motion before I could give you an interpretation with any certainty.
From the position of the official shown in the picture, I can see where he might have felt that the contact was between the helmet of the defensive player and the shoulder of the receiver (it is not clear to me from the picture that this is helmet-to-helmet contact) but it might have been called “face tackling” in any event. The position of the players spine has absolutely nothing to do with the call.
Again based on the picture, I believe that I would have called a personal foul for a late hit on a defenseless player but I would love to see the play in action to be certain of the call that should have been made. It would also be useful to know how many officials were working the game (Did anyone else have another angle on the play?)
John G. writes…
Do you think there were a number of pass interference calls that were not called during the Giants/Browns game? Is the League changing the rules or the enforcement policy?
Based on what I could see on the television coverage by CBS (which was very good, by the way), I felt that there might have been one or two DPI calls that could have been made but I did not see anything in real time that I felt was particularly egregious. To answer the second part of your question, I have seen and heard no indication that there has been any change to the NFL’s rules or enforcement policy regarding the calling of DPI or holding on pass receivers. The downfield officiating in Sunday’s game to my mind was consistent and fairly balanced and was the same as has been (rightfully) called in the past.
There continues to be two main problems regarding the criticizing of officiating in the NFL regarding downfield action. The first is that the downward view that the fan at home or from some locations in the stadium gets to see (often in slow motion) is vastly different than the view that the onfield official has from ground level. Where the TV cameras can typically see over the players, in many instances the onfield officials are attempting to look through the players at the action and they do not have a clear view of the tugging and grabbing that goes on as the players move downfield.
They also do not have the benefit of the multiple angles that the TV director in the truck has and can broadcast in seconds after the play. The onfield official must live with the angle he has and what he can see as the players move down the field and make an instantaneous decision whether he feels that a flag is warranted. (There is no such thing as a “late flag” despite the continuous and unknowledgeable harping of the TV announcers.)
The second problem is that most of the fans, especially those that appear ready to comment on the internet) and the members of both the print and electronic media do not have a clue as to what constitutes pass interference and holding as the NFL rules committee has instructed the officials to call but that does not stop them from incessantly complaining.
A quick look at the rule book (Section 8-2-5) indicates that: “It is pass interference by either team when any player movement beyond the line of scrimmage significantly hinders the progress of an eligible player of such player’s opportunity to catch the ball.” It is also indicated in the same rule that: “If there is any question whether player contact is incidental, the ruling should be no interference.”
As soon as the word “significantly” is included in the rule, it becomes a judgment call on the part of the official. Similarly, there is the indication that “if there is any question,” interference should not be called. As a result, unless the official believes (and has positive knowledge) that the restriction was “significant,” a term that is undefined, there is not going to be a call for PI or holding for that matter. The situation is typically exacerbated by the comments of many of the color announcers that “he got away with one there” when a call is not made.
Many of these comments come well after the fact (and with the assistance of someone in the TV truck) and in most instances are unwarranted. As for the comments of the “fans,” especially those on the numerous websites, I find virtually all of them to be unfounded and based on limited, if any, knowledge of the applicable rules and guidelines provided to the officials. Often the more vociferous the complaining, the less knowledgeable the commenter appears to be.
I hope that this answers your questions. As I have indicated multiple times, I believe that officiating NFL football with the myriad of rules and judgment calls that are required is the hardest officiating task around and that the NFL officials do a consistently excellent job enforcing the rules as they have been directed to do so. Obviously there will always be some questions regarding some of the calls but their performance level is significantly higher than that of the announcers and fans.