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- Dec 12, 2004
- Reaction score
- Green Bay, WI
By Pete Dougherty
The Green Bay Packers will have to be careful about one of the NFL officials' points of emphasis this season: the ban on cut blocking defensive players when they're away from the play.
It's an issue especially for the Packers, because they're switching to the Alex Gibbs lead-zone blocking scheme. Though all teams cut block, one of the staples of the lead-zone run game is offensive linemen routinely cut block defensive linemen on the back side of the play.
Until this year, any cut block in the tackle zone â€” that is, the area between the tackles and three yards forward and back from the line of scrimmage â€” was legal as long as it was one man blocking one defender. But now, with the emphasis on player safety, those cut blocks have to be executed quickly after the snap, or the blocker can be called for a 15-yard penalty.
The league changed the rule for safety reasons, because defensive linemen were getting injured by such cut blocks when they weren't involved in a play.
"The key is if you're away from the play," said referee Bill Corollo, who, along with three members of his officiating crew, is at the Packers' training camp from Thursday through Saturday night's scrimmage to officiate practices and go over rules changes and points of emphasis with the team.
The Packers are one of four teams that are running the zone scheme this season â€” Denver has used it for more than a decade, Atlanta is running it for a third consecutive season and the Packers and Houston are implementing it.
In the NFL's videotape explaining all the changes to teams, which Corollo showed to reporters Thursday, an example of the cut-block rule showed a sweep where the ball carrier was outside the tight end before an offensive lineman on the back side cut block a defensive lineman. It was within the tackle zone but would have been a penalty this season because it was too far from the point of attack.
"You can (cut block) instantly (after the snap)," Corollo said. "They were pretty far out (on the videotape), the ball's outside the tight end area, it was a sweep that side and (the cut block) was out of the play. It was a low cut. They just don't want that."
Corollo said officials at the line of scrimmage will have to adjust to looking for those plays, because previously they were trained to look at the side the ball is run to. Those blocks also can subject a player to a fine regardless of whether he was penalized on the play.
Jeff Jagodzinski, the Packers' new offensive coordinator and the Gibbs protÃ©gÃ© who's teaching the team the zone scheme, was unavailable for comment Thursday. Presumably, the Packers won't have as much leeway with the backside cut block that Denver and Atlanta have had in the past, but General Manager Ted Thompson said the rule shouldn't prevent them from cut blocking because it limits the move but doesn't prohibit it.
"If you don't spell it out, it's like a guy filing an income tax," Thompson said. "If you aren't actually certain, then these guys will push the envelop and go as far as you can go. What (the league is) trying to do is make sure everybody understands where that envelope ends."
More from NFL referees: Fumble reviews allowed; Lambeau Leap OK
A look at some of the other new rules and points of emphasis for the NFL this year:
1. In instant replay, teams can challenge fumbles that weren't reviewable if officials on the field ruled the play dead before the alleged fumble.
Now, if a player fumbles and the defensive team clearly recovers quickly, but officials say the play was blown dead, the recovering team can challenge whether the player was down by contact. If the replay shows he wasn't, the recovering team gets the ball at the spot of recovery but can not have advanced it.
"Those players don't stop at the whistle, believe me," Corollo said. "We tell them to play to the whistle, but if the ball is loose, they're coached to go recover that ball. So even though my whistle blows, either inadvertently or I thought he was down, that ball is still going to be alive and they're going to fall on it."
Referee Bill Corollo said that if it's not clear who recovered the ball, then play can't be overturned even if replay shows it was a fumble.
"It can't be a big scrum and the guy comes out after 10 guys and says, 'I have it,' " Corollo said. "I'm not going to give it to him. I have to actually see him recover the ball."
2. Also in instant replay, the referee has only 60 seconds, rather than the 90 seconds of previous years, from the time he begins reviewing replays until he must decide whether to overturn a call.
Corollo said the official in the replay booth will help expedite the process by advising the referee of his opinion and suggesting a replay angle or two that best shows what happened.
3. Roughing the passer: Defensive players can be penalized 15 yards for roughing the passer if they hit a stationary quarterback at or below the knees, unless they're blocked into him and can't avoid it.
So the tackle that tore up Cincinnati quarterback Carson Palmer's knee last year in the playoffs would be illegal and subject to penalty and a fine. Pittsburgh defensive tackle Kimo van Oelhoffen could have gotten up and gone after Palmer rather than crawling at him and hitting him in the knee on that play.
Quarterbacks still can be tackled at or below the knees if they're scrambling.
4. The prohibition on horse-collar tackles has expanded from grabbing a ball carrier by the back collar of his shoulder pads to include grabbing inside the collar of his shirt to pull him straight down. Both are 15-yard penalties.
5. To protect long snappers, any defensive player lining up within a yard of the line of scrimmage must have his helmet outside the snapper's shoulder pads or he'll be penalized for illegal formation.
6. On onside kicks, the kicking team must have at least four players on each side of the ball or it will be penalized 5 yards for illegal formation.
This rule was implemented for safety of a defenseless player fielding the ball, because kicking teams would overload one side of the ball, then hit an on-side kick into the ground that bounced high and have several players with a running start hit whoever was trying to catch it.
7. On punts and kickoffs, penalties against the kicking team can be taken 5 yards from the origin of the play, with the play repeated, or 5 yards from the end of the play.
8. The league is cracking down further on celebrations. Teams can be penalized 15 yards if two or more players take part in "prolonged, excessive or premeditated celebrations." Also, an individual player can be penalized if he uses props or has an obviously premeditated celebration. He also can be penalized for prolonged celebration.
The Lambeau Leap remains legal and was used in the league's educational videotape as an example of a legal celebration.
9. The league also is cracking down on any type of taunting, especially in-your-face taunting after a play. That penalty is 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct.
10. The three points of emphasis this year are offensive holding; watching centers more closely for false starts â€” among the changes is they can't pick up the ball and move it forward when the reach the line of scrimmage; and illegal hits on defenseless players.
The Lambeau Leap remains legal and was used in the league's educational videotape as an example of a legal celebration. muwahahahahaha