The NFL has gone to great lengths to protect quarterbacks, but with a rash of injuries this season to the game's most visible players, more rules could be on the way to keep passers safe.
"Should he always get protection from low hits or head hits, regardless of the posture he's presenting?" NFL vice president of officials Dean Blandino told the Associated Press. "Part of the conversation will be: Should that protection be expanded to all times when the quarterback has the ball in the pocket?"
Last season, 20 of 32 teams started the same quarterback in every game. Ten weeks into the 2013 season and that number is already down to 20.
"If you don't have someone who can be productive at that position, you're not going to win many games," Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon told the AP. "You need to keep your quarterback healthy, because on most teams, there's a huge drop-off from the starter to the backup. It's a watered-down position, because there's not a lot of great guys after the top 15 or so. When you get a good guy, you want to keep him healthy."
Several teams found their "great guy," who just so happens to be a read-option quarterback. But Blandino said before the season that read-option QBs can be hit like running backs, even if they don't have the ball.
"[The read-option quarterback] is still treated as a runner until he is clearly out of the play," Blandino said in early September. "The quarterback makes the pitch, he's still a runner -- he can be hit like a runner until he's clearly out of the play."
It's the same deal for plays designed to confuse the defense about who has the ball.
"The quarterback and the running back, they're both treated as runners," Blandino continued. "We don't know who has the football, we don't know who's going to take it, so both players are treated as runners. ... The basic concept is, the quarterback position is not defenseless throughout the down. It's the posture he presents that will dictate his protections."
Still, that doesn't mean it's open season on quarterbacks.
"If the quarterback is out of the pocket, he's clearly out of the play, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted," Blandino said.
As we pointed out at the time, it'll be interesting to see how long until these rules are changed. Key injuries to big names have a way of swaying the competition committee.