Tyrone Crawford

Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

Stephen Jones: Competition Committee Will Take A Look At Roughing The Passer Penalty

September 24, 2018 - 1:06 pm
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DALLAS (105.3 The Fan/AP) - Dallas Cowboys COO Stephen Jones says the NFL's competition committee will discuss the league's controversial roughing the passer penalty during a conference call tomorrow.

"We all know we want to protect our quarterbacks. At the same time, we don't want want to take away from our game and I certainly get it. I'm on the competition committee. Obviously, there's been a handful of calls that everybody thinks we've gone too far on in terms of these hits on these quarterbacks. We had a questionable one yesterday on Tyrone Crawford. I know Matthews in Green Bay has had a couple of them," Jones said on The GBAG Nation on 105.3 The Fan. 

"Those are all things we're going to take a look at as a competition committee. We actually have a call tomorrow and I'm sure we're going to be talking about this in terms of what the expectation is for the defensive linemen when they hit the quarterbacks.

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"We'll continue to look at it and at some point, if we think we have gone too far in terms of how we're calling these games, then it'll certainly be discussed. We want to get the game in as good as a place as we can get it, and at the same time, I think you can go too far. And, so, we'll continue to look at this and continue to look for ways to find a happy medium so we can protect our players, but at the same time, not take away from the greatness of the game."

Over the course of the first three weeks of the season, numerous roughing the passer calls where a defender landed on top of a quarterback with all or most of their body weight has affected the outcomes of games — and no one really seems to be clear on how to fix it at the moment.

Not Clay Matthews, the Packers linebacker who's been flagged for roughing the passer in each of Green Bay's three games this season. Not Alex Smith, the Redskins quarterback who was sacked by Matthews with about as straightforward a tackle as can be on Sunday. Not Packers coach Mike McCarthy, who yelled at two officials after the call. Not players on either team or on either side of the ball.

"Unfortunately this league is going in a direction that a lot of people don't like. I think they're getting soft. The only thing hard about this league is the fines they levy down on guys like me that play the game hard," Matthews said after Green Bay's 31-17 loss at Washington.

"Nine years, I've been doing it one way in the NFL, successfully, and now it just seems as if that way doesn't work anymore. And that's frustrating," Matthews said with a huge sigh.

"I don't run the league office," he said, "but you'd like to see football be football."

Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9 (b) of the NFL rulebook says that "a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw (a passer) 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."

That rule has been around for years, but the league's competition committee made it a point of emphasis this season. More than 30 roughing-the-passer penalties were called in this season's first two weeks alone.

"That was basically my key — that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight," referee Craig Wrolstad told a pool reporter Sunday.

"But if you've got a shoulder into him and then landed on him with most of his body weight off him or released him when he went down, then he would have been OK," Wrolstad said. "But in my judgment, I ruled that he landed on him with most or all of his body weight there."

If the 15-yard penalty was assessed correctly in this instance, count McCarthy and Matthews among those who think that rule needs to be rewritten or, at the very least, reinterpreted.

"Somehow," Packers defensive lineman Kenny Clark said, "we've got to find a way to grab the quarterback and twirl our body and not land on the quarterback."

Sounds impossible.

"What do you want the man to do?" said one of Smith's defensive teammates, Josh Norman. "When I saw it, it was not malicious, ill intent. It was just a nice form tackle."

Another Redskins defender, safety D.J. Swearinger, sided with Matthews, too.

"They're making the game less fun," Swearinger said. "He made a great play. That's crazy."