The National Football League has made it a priority to protect its quarterbacks from injury, but at least one person in the league believes new guidelines for calling roughing the passer penalties could lead to unintended consequences.
Mainly, increased flopping.
"Let's not turn this into the NBA flop fest," Baltimore Ravens defensive coordinator Don Martindale said Thursday, per ESPN's Jamison Hensley. "Because now the quarterbacks are making a mockery of it to the officials and the league. Now, you're insulting the officials and the league if you do that."
Of course, if flopping becomes a major issue, the NFL could follow the NBA's lead and hand out fines for offenders. But given the physical nature of football, it may be tough for the league to enforce anti-flopping measures.
The new rule prohibits defenders from landing on quarterbacks with their full body weight. While there have been plenty of controversial roughing the passer flags around the league in the first three weeks, Hensley notes Baltimore has been penalized for the violation just once.
Martindale acknowledged the new rule has changed the way defenders tackle.
"If you will, it's a rodeo stop-drop-and-roll tackle," Martindale said. "I'm just trying to give you words to describe it, but that's what it ends up looking like, and everybody tries to do that. You can see on our tape, that's what we're trying to do. I know that's the hot topic right now, and nobody really cares what I think about it. I mean, really, come on."
While quarterbacks may be protected more now, other players have been put at greater risk as they change the way they play. Miami Dolphins defensive end William Hayes tore his ACL in Week 3 while trying to avoid putting his body weight on Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr, according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport.
Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews has been at the center of attention as he has been flagged in each of the first three weeks. After his latest questionable flag, the six-time Pro Bowler said the league was "getting soft," according to The Athletic's Lindsay Jones.
Even as the league tried to clarify the rule, Matthews said he still doesn't have a good grasp of it as of Thursday, per ESPN's Kevin Seifert:
I don't know if that statement really expresses how they're going to call it moving forward. I'm sure what many, if not all of NFL fans and players, are hoping is that they're not changing the rule but much like the helmet rule we saw in the preseason, it'll change. But I said that after the Minnesota hit on Cousins, and nothing changed last week. If that's the case, that's truly unfortunate because I think I speak on behalf of everybody that doesn't like the rule and the way it's being called and the way it's being officiated.
Defenders aren't the only ones who don't like the new rule. Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger—who Martindale and the Ravens will face in Week 4—also expressed concern after the Steelers and Tampa Bay Buccaneers drew four roughing the passer flags in Week 3, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler:
"There's a lot of them. I don't want to criticize the officiating, especially when you're talking about a penalty that helps the quarterback out. I was surprised at the first one. The second one I thought was legit. He hit me in the helmet. It was kind of like hearing that loud ring when your helmet gets hit. There are sure a lot of them. I can't imagine the fans at home are enjoying it too much."
In other words, both Roethlisberger and the Ravens will be keeping an eye on how the officials handle hits on the quarterback on Sunday."