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Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers would be illegal this year

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New tackling rules have been instituted and quite frankly, they’re a bit confusing.

Green Bay Packers v Minnesota Vikings
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Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images

Every year, the NFL gives several points of emphasis on rules changes that will be implemented for the upcoming season. This year, in an effort to eliminate serious injuries (we should all be supportive of that), the league has instituted new rules regarding tackling.

Maybe they’re straightforward for most folks, but they seem unduly confusing to me. Let’s pull some tweets from some Vikings reporters who sat in on a meeting with NFL referee Pete Morelli discussing these new rules and points of emphasis:

But wait, there’s more!

But what’s defenseless? I AM SO GLAD YOU ASKED:

But...that literally describes the Barr hit on Rodgers. So can you make it CRYSTAL CLEAR what a defenseless player is for the people in the back of the room, NFL?

Oh, in that case then I can see how Anthony Barr’s hit would be illeg—HAHAHAHAHAHA because Morelli, in describing what what defenseless isn’t, LITERALLY described Anthony Barr’s hit on Aaron Rodgers last year. LET’S GO TO THE TAPE:

At no time did Rodgers set up and establish himself again as a passer. He was on a continual rollout to avoid the rush of Barr (which was a smart football decision), and threw the ball on the run. Barr took two steps...and tackled Rodgers. In a perfectly legal manner.

Which is now illegal. but still seems legal, at least the way the NFL describes this now totally illegal hit, which would now draw a 15 yard penalty.

Then, Cronin tried to clarify a little further on why the Barr hit would be a penalty this year:

Fine, but it appears Morelli describes Rodgers as, once again, not being defenseless while still using the Barr hit as what would be a penalty...which shouldn’t make that hit a penalty:

Per his earlier description, Rodgers was not defenseless, as he had not rolled out and set up to throw. He rolled out and stayed on the run while passing.

Are you guys confused? Because I sure am.

So my questions are simple ones:

How is a defensive player supposed to defy the Laws of Physics after they’ve made a tackle and are taking a player down? And look, this isn’t Barr I’m specifically defending here, although it was used as an example by the NFL, so I used it as well.

This type of hit happens in every game, every week in the NFL. And it’s one more thing that just makes me shake my head about the league in this day and age. How is a referee supposed to determine intent, and whether or not the defensive player just tackled an offensive player, or drove him to the ground ‘with all or most of his weight’? This is a basic tackle, one players are taught from the earliest stages of tackle football: head up but don’t lead with your head, wrap, drive, take your opponent to the ground.

That’s exactly what happened here, and now, if in the subjective opinion of a referee the defender ‘drives’ an opponent in to the ground ‘with all or most of his weight’ (and the subjective opinion of what ‘defenseless’ and ‘all or most of their weight’ can be thrown in here too), it will be a 15 yard penalty.

Nope, no chance to screw this up, not at all. I actually feel bad for the referees trying to call and enforce this rule, especially with the speed today’s game is played.

At least when baseball was a hot mess with Bud Selig and steroids, the basic rules were largely unchanged, and you could still enjoy the actual game, for the most part. A hit was a hit, a run was a run, an out was an out. Still is, too.

Football is making what should be simple things like ‘what’s a catch’ and ‘what’s a tackle’ impossible to discern. Things that are basic core tenets of the game are being clouded to the point no one knows what the rule is, so it will be enforced subjectively and arbitrarily at multiple levels. If the NFL can’t define what a catch is, it seems virtually impossible to me that they’ll be able to interpret the new tackling rules.

And it’s going to cost teams games this year, you watch, and fans all over the NFL are going to be livid and scream that games are fixed. It’s getting more and more difficult to just enjoy the purity of football, because the essence of what makes it great is being clouded in confusion, and no one knows what is legal and what isn’t anymore. Add in the uncertainty of the defensive player as to what he can and cannot do, and I actually think this may increase the chances of an injury in certain situations.

Finally, I leave you with two more tweets that kind of sum up just how confusing and subjective this could get, one from former Vikings LB Ben Leber:

...and one from 1500 ESPN media member Judd Zulgad:

Seems clear as mud to me, folks.