BREAKING NEWS: We have a new penalty that's going to be a problem, and this time it does not involve "leading with the helmet." It does involve a new addition to the rulebook, an addendum that can be called the "Aaron Rodgers Rule," Anthony Barr driving the Packers quarterback into the ground last year.
Naturally, it was the Vikings called again for the play, with Antwione Williams sacking Jaguars backup Cody Kessler during the fourth quarter of the matinee game on Saturday during Week 2's preseason action.
Here's the play in question:
Now, things get a little bit tricky here, because you can theoretically make a case that this would qualify under the rule changed added to Rule 12 of the NFL Rulebook. Specifically, players are banned from "stuffing" quarterbacks "into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball."
Here's the full rule:
A rushing defender is prohibited from committing such intimidating and punishing acts as "stuffing" a passer into the ground or unnecessarily wrestling or driving him down after the passer has thrown the ball, even if the rusher makes his initial contact with the passer within the one-step limitation provided for in (a) above. When tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down or land on top of him with all or most of the defender's weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up the passer with the defensive player's arms and not land on the passer with all or most of his body weight.
Referee"plopping down" on quarterbacks when making sacks.
"Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down on him [the quarterback]," Morelli said. "The Aaron Rodgers [hit] would be a foul this year. As long as he's out of the pocket, established and all that. But if he's running, that's not the same."
The weirdest thing about this rule is that the league installed it late. There was no mention of the rule change at the owners' meetings, but it was in the rulebook in July and discussed by Morelli earlier this month. (Am I just somehow forgetting that this was a thing at the owners meetings? It sure doesn't seem like something that was heavily discussed.)
People were not pleased by the call.
Agreed with the Vikes crew - officials really are getting out of hand with the personal fouls. That roughing the passer call was exceptionally bad.— Frank Schwab (@YahooSchwab) August 18, 2018
Antoine Williams just got called for one of the worst roughing the passer calls I've ever seen. He literally just sacked Cody Kessler and got flagged for it.— Dane Mizutani (@DaneMizutani) August 18, 2018
Oh my goodness, that roughing the passer penalty that was just called on the Vikings... If that's a penalty, the league is toast.— Chris Lewis (@ChrisLewisTweet) August 18, 2018
What on earth? Not sure how that was roughing the passer on Williams. We knew it's going to awhile for NFL officials to work out the kinks with the helmet rule, but that was just blatantly the wrong call.— Courtney Cronin (@CourtneyRCronin) August 18, 2018
Lololol this roughing the passer penalty. The game ain’t about you, boys.— Kyle Crabbs (@GrindingTheTape) August 18, 2018
There were plenty more where that came from -- roughly 5,000 people quote tweeted me and said "SHUT IT DOWN" as it relates to the NFL.
Barr said at the time of Morelli's comments that it would be extremely difficult for defenders to adjust. It may be even worse: if defenders can be flagged simply for tackling a quarterback and then not flying off the body of the quarterback as the tackle is happening, there are going to be a lot of surprising flags that pop out during the regular season.
And it's only going to cause more controversy. It sure looks like the NFL has a large group of new refs and a couple of difficult-to-understand new rules and it's going to create issues once the regular season begins.