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Pass interference, and how painful it should be

Posted by Darren Urban on March 23, 2018 – 10:17 am

Next week at the annual spring league meetings, owners have the chance to tweak various rules concerning the game — including yet again another adjustment to what constitutes a catch, but more on that next week — and that includes pass interference. Defensive pass interference has long had controversy with it, especially because it is often a judgment call in the first place and because it can be so harsh. DPI, of course, is a spot foul, so a flag thrown 45 yards downfield becomes a 45-yard penalty even if the interference was ticky-tack or unintentional. It can swing a game.

The proposal out there is for DPI to be a 15-yard penalty only, as it is in the college game. The caveat is that officials would have the right to make it a spot foul for an “egregious” foul, or one considered intentional. That would truly be the ultimate judgment call.

The NFL’s executive VP of football operations just happens to be a former longtime defensive back, and Troy Vincent on a conference call Friday morning didn’t sound enthusiastic himself about a change. Vincent said NFL defensive backs are “too skilled, too smart” to give them such a loophole.

“You don’t want the defensive back being able to strategically grab a guy,” Vincent said.

Still, the possibility of a change wouldn’t have gotten this far without some support. In his heyday a couple of years ago, one of the strengths of former Cardinals receiver John Brown was his ability to draw pass interference calls deep downfield even if he couldn’t make the catch. Those were always important yards that wouldn’t really be seen in the statistics. In an NFL where the rules have long tilted toward offense and the passing game in particular, this might be a shift to make it a little more even.

Unless (until?) defensive backs do figure out a way to use it to their advantage.


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