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Wednesday, November 24, 2004
"Late hit" needs a rule change
The Marshall hit Sunday night just drove me nuts and was a perfect example of why I think the rule for late hitting should be changed. I've been suggesting this to friends (none of whom have ANY influence, of course) for a while. What do you folks think? Here it is:
I think the late hit penalty should be handled just like a face mask penalty. A face mask penalty has two varieties, as we all know. The intentional and unintentional. Or the incidental and flagrant may be better terms. The ref can use his judgment to assess the correct penalty, 5 or 15 yards. It doesn't compromise the safety of a player because the 15 yard penalty is there to protect, but having both allows a ref to rightly divide between degrees of severity and intent.
It makes perfect sense to provide the ref with both a 5 and 15 yard variety. The 5 yarder should apply for incidental, unintentional, non-flagrant late hits (whether it be an out of bounds hit or an inbounds hit after the whistle has blown). As with Marshall, a defender bearing down at full speed toward the sidelines can hardly predict when the runner will step out. That sort of hit should be a 5 yard penalty. Likewise, a defender bearing down on a ball carrier in bounds often hurdles himself or can not stop his momentum before the ballcarrier is tackled by someone else. That sort of late hit should be a 5 yard penalty. Football is a contact sport, after all.
However, in the case of a flagrant hit out of bounds (and we've all seen those, so you know what I'm talking about), or a hit long after the whistle blows and meant to harm or humiliate, the 15 yard personal foul should be assessed.
Some would argue for the status quo because they feel the safety of the ball carrier is preeminent. If that's the case, then the face mask penalty should be changed by removing the 5 yard discretionary call and making all face mask penalties 15 yarders. But that isn't necessary. As long as the 15 yarder is AVAILABLE, the ball carrier will be protected from all but the dirtiest of players. And no amount of penalty yardage will protect him from those guys.
By the way, I think this would be a nice change to the "roughing the passer" call, as well. In particular, I'm talking about the "blow to the helmet" variety. Sometimes a guy goes off on the QB, and it should be a personal foul. But often the contact is unintentional and harmless. Give the refs the ability to assess differing degrees of penalties depending on the situation.
It works fine for face masks. How is a late hit or "blow to the helmet" any different?