This week your local rules pain in the *** found himself repeating information so frequently he figured it was a good idea to make a video to break it down. I’m talking about the controversial no-call on the hit that prevented Buffalo Bills running back Ty Johnson from getting into the end zone to close the first half. Before I get to the video and recap, first and foremost I want to extend my best wishes to Ty Johnson as this hit did result in a concussion. In a similar vein, while I couldn’t make the following video without showing some aspects of the play, I do not include the actual helmet-to-helmet contact.
I close with this statement in the video but I’ll open with it here. Nothing either here nor there is intended to ask you to be okay with the hit itself or come to the conclusion that linebacker Jerome Baker couldn’t have achieved a similar result with a different angle or tackling form. The sole intent is to clarify that the no-call was the right call by NFL rule.
The video begins with a screen grab from the NFL rule book (found here) to highlight the fact that the words “target” and “targeting” appear precisely zero times. The point being that there is no such thing as a targeting rule in the NFL. To be even more clear, there’s no blanket prohibition of helmet-to-helmet contact. It’s actually legal most of the time in the NFL.
When helmet-to-helmet is prohibited, there’s always an “and.” For example, “and the person hit is a quarterback in a throwing posture.” The rationale is that the QB at that point in time is unable to protect himself.
It’s more clear in the video as I can show body posture, etc. but by the time Ty Johnson was hit he had made the catch, taken a couple steps, and turned upfield. If we were questioning if the catch was complete or not it’d easily be ruled that he had possession prior to the hit. As he had “made” the catch before the hit, he was not in the process of “trying to make” a catch. That means the defenseless receiver protection is no longer in place.
To go even further, Johnson began lowering his shoulder and turning his body before the contact. He was definitively moving in a manner that showed he was capable of protecting himself.
We also examine the tackling form of Jerome Baker. Arguably, he was leading with his helmet, but his body posture was not the “flat back and face down” one that was emphasized by the NFL when they implemented the penalty “lowering the head to initiate contact” a few years ago. His posture also showed signs of attempting to lead with the shoulder.
Finally, I address the reality of an unnecessary roughness penalty. I mentioned in my weekly penalty recap that this can be called whenever the action is unneeded based on the circumstances of the play, and overly aggressive. Ty Johnson was at the one-yard line and driving forward. Cornerback Eli Apple was hitting from the side and may not have been able to knock Johnson away from the goal line. Baker’s best bet to stop a score and make the tackle was to drive forward forcibly and match Ty Johnson’s momentum.
See the above. I’m not asking you to embrace the play. However, Baker’s actions were part of a typical football action based on the circumstances in front of him. I’m not asking you to love the rule, but hopefully this helps understand it.