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Talk pro football with SI.com's Andrew Perloff in Huddle Up, a forum to discuss the hottest topics around the NFL.
11/29/2006 11:52:00 AM

Enough with the roughing calls

Kiwanuka
The Giants' Mathias Kiwanuka let Vince Young out of his grasp and the Titans quarterback scrambled for a key first down late in Tennesse's 24-21 win last Sunday.
AP

The NFL needs to ease up on the roughing the passer penalties this season, instead of waiting for the offseason to reevaluate how they enforce the rule. Is there any doubt a roughing the passer call will be pivotal in a playoff game?

Last week, two games were greatly affected by the league's new emphasis on protecting quarterbacks. The Giants' Mathias Kiwanuka, fearing a penalty, let Vince Young out of his grasp and the Titans QBs scrambled for a first down that allowed Tennessee to mount an unlikely comeback. And the Packers' Cullen Jenkins was wrongly flagged after barely making contact with Matt Hasselbeck's helmet, leading to a Seahawks first down that changed the direction of that game in the fourth quarter.

Questionable roughing the passer calls have become a regular part of ESPN highlights and those aforementioned plays have been the focus of talk radio all week. And they often happen on key third-and-long plays, because those are the situations a defense is most likely to reach the quarterback.

Another factor that makes this a real problem for the NFL is how big the quarterbacks are getting. The newest crop of quarterbacks, like Vince Young, Jason Campbell and Ben Roethlisberger, are as big as defensive ends and are hard to tackle. Even a non-mobile quarterback like Tom Brady is difficult to drag to the ground. Brady will fight any defensive linemen who gets through. So what's a guy like Kiwanuka to do?

I understand the NFL needs to protect its marquee players and this rule isn't going to change. But most of the injuries to quarterbacks have nothing to do with the kind of plays that are drawing flags. Look at Donovan McNabb's recent MCL tear, which had nothing to do with contact. The league can do little to prevent the most serious kinds of leg injuries.

I wish I had a better alternative for the NFL. Maybe cutting out a preseason game, reemphasizing the "in the grasp" rule or improving a quarterback's padding. But at this point, I don't care if the star quarterbacks get hurt if the cost of protecting them is an unfair game. And there's no question these roughing the passer calls are unfair. Just wait until the key play of Super Bowl XLI is a penalty on DeMarcus Ware for hitting Philip Rivers as he releases the ball.

As always, let me know what you think. If you agree with me, maybe we can make some noise and the NFL will listen.
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