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Monday, August 23, 2021

no-touch league
The NFL’s mandate to have refs actually call pass interference penalties will have a big impact on this coming season. But not a good one, according to Green Bay safety Darren Sharper:

“If the NFL wants to see more points scored, how about you just don’t play any defenses out there? Just let the offenses go out there and play by themselves, because that’s what they’re trying to do,” Sharper said Saturday night after Green Bay’s 19-14 exhibition victory over New Orleans.

Sharper had quite a bit to say about this stricter interpretation of what, we’re constantly reminded, are existing rules:

Sharper told reporters he hoped they had a “beep” button before he spoke his mind on the penalties.

“Those calls that were called are ridiculous because the guys are running with them and Joey [Thomas] has his head turned, his eyes looking back to the ball and they still throw a flag when both guys are like chicken fighting back there and doing little things that are not impeding anyone’s progress,” Sharper fumed.

“Those are just terrible calls. And then Ahmad [Carroll]’s call, it’s thrown out of bounds and they call pass interference on that. It’s just ridiculous.”

Sharper said he’s afraid that offenses will just throw the ball deep during the regular season and pray for a flag on what used to be brushed aside as incidental contact.

“That’s going to be the game plan,” Sharper predicted. “Tell the receiver to run into the defensive back when the ball is in the air and get a flag. And what kind of game is that going to be?”

Sharper said it would be a shame for a playoff game or a late-season game with postseason implications to come down to “a bogus call like that, a ball that’s not catchable or a guy that doesn’t impede the receiver to catch the ball and it’s on the 1-yard line, score and they win a game like that.”

It’s easy to dismiss Sharper as an aging player who won’t be able to adapt and is afraid of getting scorched every play. But he’s right: The offenses are going to exploit the crackdown on defensive backs, and the strategy of drawing first-down penalties will work, at least for a little while. Meanwhile, defensive lines are going to be less inclined to blitz, and thus be hemmed in.

This controversy echos the ongoing one in the NHL over obstruction calls. When the neutral-ice trap regained prominence in the mid-’90s, the league pledged to make refs start calling obstruction penalties. As with the NFL this year, new rules weren’t introduced, but rather, emphasis was placed on enforcing the existing rules.

Unfortunately, this increased enforcement resulted in parades of players going to the penalty box, which disrupted the flow of the game. Every year, the pattern became familiar: Referees would start the season by calling games tight, then would lose the war of attrition as teams continued to press and criticism of choppy gameplay increased. By midseason, trapping teams would be back to business as usual, and the obstruction crackdown would be deferred until next season, when the process would start all over again.

The parallels between the NHL’s obstruction and the NFL’s pass interference situations are fairly clear. So I think the pattern established in hockey will appear in football: Early rigorous enforcement, then retrenchment in the face of pressure from teams and owners. Despite the league’s perpetual desire for higher-scoring games (which the NHL shares, actually), things will be back to the typical lax pass interference calls by Week 8 or so.

Hopefully, this won’t spark any calls in the NFL for a reduction of men on the field, similar to the calls for full-time 4-on-4 hockey in the NHL. (It’s hard to argue the football field is getting too cramped, but you never know.)

I think it’s appropriate to frame this in the classic word-association structure:

NFL : Pass Interference :: NHL : Obstruction

Don’t worry, there won’t be a test on this later.

- Costa Tsiokos, Mon 08/23/2004 10:29:32 PM
Category: Hockey, Football | Permalink |

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  1. 4-on-4 Revisited
    My post from yesterday asking readers what they thought about playing the game 4-on-4 for the full 60 minutes seemed

    Trackback by Off Wing Opinion — 08/24/2004 @ 01:38:39 PM

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