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NFL Discusses Making Hits on QBs, Defenseless Players Reviewable or Auto-Ejection

Scott Polacek@@ScottPolacekFeatured Columnist IVDecember 14, 2022

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA - NOVEMBER 27: A detailed view of the NFL logo on a Wilson football prior to a game between the Houston Texans and Miami Dolphins at Hard Rock Stadium on November 27, 2022 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Megan Briggs/Getty Images)
Megan Briggs/Getty Images

There may be changes coming to the NFL rulebook regarding hits on quarterbacks and defenseless players.

Per NFL Network's Tom Pelissero, NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said there have been some discussions among league owners that such hits may become reviewable and subject to automatic ejections.

Pelissero noted any rule change would need to be voted on during the March league meetings.

"The officials have been very consistent and accurate, but they are human," Vincent said when discussing the potential for such reviews, per NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.

Roughing-the-passer penalties in particular seemingly always generate plenty of discussion and debate as the league attempts to juggle the need for player safety with the reality that it is a violent game with players chasing after quarterbacks at high speeds on every drop back.

It was under the spotlight again during Sunday night's game between the Los Angeles Chargers and Miami Dolphins when Jaelan Phillips was whistled for a controversial call on Justin Herbert.

Frank Schwab of Yahoo Sports called it "one of the worst roughing-the-passer flags of the season" while noting Phillips said in a since-deleted tweet "Regardless of the outcome of the game, if I'm about to be fined $15,000 for 'roughing the passer' then there needs to be some accountability and a review of what constitutes that penalty."

There was no shortage of reaction to the call:

JJ Watt @JJWatt

Absurd roughing the passer call. <br><br>Absurd.

Dont'a Hightower @zeus30hightower

Roughing the passer…they gotta penalize refs for ridiculous flags like that some how..

Cris Carter @criscarter80

Roughing the passer Dolphins on Herbert was ridiculous

Charles Woodson @CharlesWoodson

Roughing the passer🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬🤬

Another call drew plenty of attention in Week 5 when Atlanta Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was whistled for a highly controversial roughing-the-passer penalty on Tom Brady that undercut the team's comeback efforts.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback was actually fined for his actions during the play, as he attempted to kick Jarrett.

Perhaps reviews could remove some of the controversial aspects of such plays, especially when they come at critical junctures in the game. That could help defenses across the league, but the idea of automatic ejections was also raised during these discussions.

That brings to mind targeting calls in college football, which are controversial in their own right and have evolved over time with automatic reviews of such whistles and the ability for teams to appeal whether a player must sit out the first half of the next game if the foul occurs in the second half.