Aaron Rodgers: Learning the Hard Way

Don ZakCorrespondent INovember 14, 2008

Has anyone ever taken the time to actually read the encyclopedic volume that contains the NFL rules and regulations? I bet not.


Last weekend’s Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings game was clearly a test of officiating skill.  From 10 Packers penalties to Adrian Peterson’s repeated removal of his helmet during the game, Alberto Riveron’s crew had their hands full last week.


While all of this leaves open the opportunity to miss a call or two, one call they had correct was the Aaron Rodgers' safety.  No I don’t mean that obvious safety.  I mean the other one where an athletic Rodgers “flings” the ball as Joe Buck described it in an attempt to throw the ball out of the end zone to avoid the safety.


The NFL rule book clearly states under the Digest of the Rules, "A safety occurs when: (c) Offensive team commits a foul and spot of enforcement is behind its own goal line. Additionally, Intentional Grounding is penalized by enforcing ten yards and a loss of down (combination penalty) or a safety if the passer is in his own end zone.


But did Rodgers really commit a penalty? I mean he was only trying to make a Brett Favre like attempt at a forward pass, right?  Wrong.


The NFL definition is that intentional grounding will be called when a passer, facing an imminent loss of yardage due to pressure from the defense, throws a forward pass without a realistic chance of completion.


What does realistic mean in this situation?  Realistically, the officials were looking to see whether the Packers QB had enough control of the ball and was in somewhat of a natural throwing position in order for the pass to have had a realistic chance of completion.


Unfortunately for Packer fans, I guess NFL officials did not consider Aaron’s throwing position to reflect the description from the NFL rulebook, but rather represented the position a body boogie board surfer takes, like the one Aaron owns back home in California. 


While Rodgers clearly had possession of the ball in the end zone, he never had control of it.  Instead of his leaping maneuver, he could have picked it up and maneuvered to make a throw down-field in an upright position or attempted to run with it out of the end zone thus avoiding at the minimum the intentional grounding penalty.


Too bad Rodgers had to make a rookie mistake against a divisional foe and learn the NFL rules during the game at the expense of his team and the fans. Two points would have helped a little in beating Minnesota last week.