AP source: NFL to evaluate roughing-the-passer rule

Rob Maaddi
AP Pro Football Writer

The NFL plans to discuss roughing-the-passer penalties amid outrage over two disputed calls in Week 5, a person with direct knowledge of the matter told The Associated Press.

The person, speaking on condition of anonymity because the conversations are internal, said changes to the rule are not expected during the season. The person also said the league has not given officials a directive to emphasize roughing calls following Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa's concussion.

NFL owners will meet in New York next week. The league's Competition Committee — comprised of six team owners/executives and four head coaches — makes most of the recommendations for rule changes. Teams can also propose rule changes to be voted on by owners, which require 24 votes to pass.

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Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr (4) is sacked by Kansas City Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones, right, during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Oct. 10, 2022, in Kansas City, Mo. (AP Photo/Ed Zurga)

One idea, suggested by Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones on Monday night after he was flagged, might be to allow video review of roughing calls.

Protecting quarterbacks is a priority for owners, who pay big bucks for the faces of their franchises. Twenty-five QBs are making at least $25 million this season.

The questionable call against Jones — the second in two days — nearly cost Kansas City in its 30-29 comeback victory over the Las Vegas Raiders.

The Chiefs had just scored to trim their deficit to 17-7 when Jones stripped Raiders quarterback Derek Carr from behind just before halftime. The Pro Bowl defensive tackle landed on Carr while also coming up with the ball — replays showed it was clearly loose and that Jones cleanly recovered — but referee Carl Cheffers threw a flag for roughing the passer.

“The quarterback is in the pocket and he’s in a passing posture. He gets full protection of all the aspects of what we give the quarterback in a passing posture,” Cheffers told a pool reporter after the game. “My ruling was the defender landed on him with full body weight. The quarterback is protected from being tackled with full body weight.”

On Sunday, Falcons defensive tackle Grady Jarrett was flagged by referee Jerome Boger for a seemingly harmless sack on Tom Brady. The penalty gave the Buccaneers a first down and allowed them to run out the clock on a 21-15 victory.

Boger made a similar critical call late in the fourth quarter of the Ravens-Bills game a week earlier on a play that many also thought didn't to warrant a flag.

Boger called another borderline roughing penalty in the Falcons-Buccaneers game when Vita Vea was pushed into Atlanta quarterback Marcus Mariota.

Roughing the passer is the only rule where referees are instructed to err on the side of caution.

The NFL rulebook notes: “When in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactic against the quarterback, the referee should always call roughing the passer.”

Jones, who has been flagged for roughing the passer nine times in his career, has a solution.

“We’ve got to be able to review it in the booth, you know what I mean?” Jones said. “I think that’s the next step for the NFL as a whole. If we’re going to call it a penalty at that high (of rate), then we’ve got to be able to review it and make sure, because sometimes looks can be deceiving.”

The league already went down that road, making pass interference reviewable for one season after an egregious missed foul late in the fourth quarter in the 2019 NFC championship cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

The experiment failed miserably and the rule wasn’t considered the next year.

– AP Sports Dave Skretta contributed.