NFL Rules regarding the option Quarterback dated Oct 2012

With all the recent discussion here at BTB on Bob and the option and how to beat it. I thought it might be worthwhile to look at the clarified rules the NFL Vice President of Officiating Carl Johnson sent out regarding defenseless hits on the quarterback and receivers.

It appears that most of these clarifications actually address the read option quarterback play. Listed below are the rules in written form. There was a video that accompanied the letter that showed examples but I have not found a link to a copy. This list of rule clarification that went out to all 32 teams was dated Oct 19 2012. The bold text was highlighted by myself.

1. When a quarterback runs an option and keeps the ball, he is a runner. He has none of the special protections given to a passer. Normal unnecessary roughness rules apply. It does not matter whether he is in or outside the pocket area.

If the quarterback on an option pitches the ball to a back, his only protection before or after the pitch is that provided under normal unnecessary roughness rules. He does not receive any of the special protections granted to a player who throws a forward pass while on the run. The back who receives the pitch does not have any special defenseless player protection.

2. When the passer goes outside the pocket area and either continues moving with the ball (without attempting to advance the ball as a runner) or throws while on the run, he loses the protection of the one-step rule and the protection against a low hit, but retains the other special protections afforded to a passer in the pocket. If a quarterback attempts to advance the ball as a runner, he loses all of the special protections of the roughing-the-passer rule. However, if he throws while on the run, he re-gains all the special protections except the one-step rule and low hit rule. If he clearly establishes a passing posture, he is covered by all of the special protections for passers.

3. When a quarterback retreats to pass, but brings the ball down and begins to advance as a runner, he no longer has roughing the passer protection, even when his path of advance is within the pocket.

4. When a quarterback retreats to pass, and moves in an attempt to avoid the pass rush, even if he is moving forward in the pocket he has roughing-the-passer protection until he clearly becomes a runner.

5. When a quarterback hands off to a runner and carries out his fake, his only protection is normal unnecessary roughness rules. Helmet-to-helmet contact is not necessarily illegal.

6.If a defensive player is blocked or fouled into the quarterback and violates any of the roughing-the-passer rules, it is not a foul unless the contact is avoidable. This is the same standard that applies for low hits.

7. A receiver who is attempting to catch a swing pass is a defenseless player, whether the pass is forward or backward. This also applies to screen passes.


The way I read rule 6, the penalty on Hatcher should not have happened as he tripped over a player while trying to block Bob's throwing lane and as such fell unavoidably into Bob hitting his helmet.

So if Bob (Tebow, Kappernick, Wilson) is in hand off or run mode even between the tackles, according to rule one above, he gets no special protection beyond normal unnecessary roughness.

As you consider them, do these rule clarifications make Bob more of a target than before? And how will RR play this out next year utilizing the current players on roster but 100% healthy.

Another user-created commentary provided by a BTB reader.

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