Packers linebacker Clay Matthews

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Bernstein: NFL Has To Fix This Problem

The roughing-the-passer rule is being applied in a ridiculous manner.

Dan Bernstein
September 25, 2018 - 1:43 pm
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(670 The Score) The 34 roughing-the-passer penalties in the three weeks of NFL action is way too many, and even as obtuse a league as the NFL seems to know it. It has to be bad to result in that kind of awareness from an organization known to lack it, and that's where we seem to be.

We have reached a critical mass of absurdity -- and in relatively short order. Tacklers are being asked to do the impossible, having to fight the laws of physics to put a large human being on the ground without then falling on top of him at all, and each next video is everywhere immediately and tagged with something like "THIS IS A PENALTY???" and followed by a respected player decrying the rule and the interpretation by the referee.

Clay Matthews, Richard Sherman and J.J. Watt are among those vocal about how ridiculous it has been so far, and the injury to Dolphins defensive end William Hayes might be remembered as the bizarre and unfortunate final straw when he tore his ACL trying to conform to the rule while sacking Raiders quarterback Derek Carr. As long as it remains legal to tackle the quarterback to the ground, there will be no way to sustain a fair game with these guidelines implemented for this year.

Members of the NFL's competition committee are considering a "shift in emphasis" in how such plays are judged, the Washington Post reported. The assumption is that no change to the wording of the rule could be made until after the season, but officials would have more latitude in judging a tackler's unnecessary extra impact or violent intent.​ The league doesn't feel it can roll back a safety-related rule, Judy Battista of NFL.com reported, and now it must find a way to walk the fine line of "eliminating the gratuitous calls" while simultaneously ensuring that they "don't diminish the player safety part of it."

It's a small victory that commissioner Roger Goodell and the owners would even be willing to admit a mistake enough to move this quickly to correct it, but that doesn't mean they've earned any trust that now they'll get it right.

Dan Bernstein is a co-host of 670 The Score’s Bernstein & McKnight Show in middays. You can follow him on Twitter @dan_bernstein.​​​​​

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