Gene Steratore Discusses NFL Rules, Roughing The Passer

Not every big hit is a penalty; sometimes it's just physics, Gene Steratore says

After Hours with Amy Lawrence
October 29, 2018 - 9:20 am

USA Today Images

If you’ve watched the NFL with any regularity this season, you’ve probably noticed an uptick in roughing-the-passer penalties. While it’s important to protect the quarterback, many fans and analysts believe the league may have taken it too far.

“With how many different rules have been implemented in recent history, the target area for a defender is very minimal,” NFL on CBS rules expert Gene Steratore said on After Hours with Amy Lawrence. “Anything at the knee or below or toward the head or neck area limits the scope and the area that they can contact the passer.

“I will say from an officiating standpoint – and (as) a lover of football – I think every rule that they’ve implemented has been a wonderful rule because there is a lot of safety. A quarterback should have some special protection because he really is the only player on the field for the most part that’s standing still and getting hit by someone that’s moving so fast at him. So I’m all for all of the safety, the new implementations and new rules that they’ve put in over the years for the quarterback.”

Referees, though, have been asked to officiate by the letter of the law. Steratore would like officials to have the freedom to use more discretion. 

“As a referee, I wanted to have a little bit of play and allow myself to use my officiating experience or officiating acumen to apply some judgment as to whether I felt like (it was a penalty),” he said.

In other words, if a defender hits a quarterback and ends up on top of him, is that a penalty? Or is that just physics?

“These guys are so big and so fast, and a standing person – naturally their bodies are going to fall right on top of each other very quickly,” Steratore said. “With that said, if I thought he gave him a little more as he was taking him down just to punish him unnecessarily, then I would call that roughing and allow myself to make that judgment – even though it happened in a fraction of a second. You’ll feel the difference, I think. I would hope that that scope opens a little and allows the officials to apply some of that.”