The influx of read-option quarterbacks into the NFL has caused the league to widen the scope of acceptable hits to signal callers.
In a new rule put in place for this season, quarterbacks who are running with the ball or appear to be running with the ball will be treated like running backs in the eyes of officials and subject to hits that may have been deemed illegal in recent years past.
“The quarterback can be hit like a runner until he’s clearly out of the play,” NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said in a video detailing the new regulations. “… If he’s running with the football or presenting a running posture, normal unnecessary-roughness rules apply.”
San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick was one of the most successful read-option quarterbacks in 2012, quarterbacking the 49ers to their first Super Bowl since 1994, and his coach is not at all pleased with the rule changes.
“I believe that when a quarterback is handing a ball off or faking a ball — in the read-option case, he’s reading on an option play and he’s as defenseless as a quarterback who’s in the act of throwing,” Jim Harbaugh told reporters Friday, calling the ruling “flawed and a bit biased.”
The read-option has been a hot topic of conversation as the 49ers prepare to open their season against Green Bay, a team Kaepernick torched for an NFL record 181 rushing yards in the playoffs last season. Packers linebacker Clay Matthews, who referred to Niners’ pistol formation as a “fake offense” in an interview on ESPN Radio, has said multiple times that he plans to take full advantage of the new rules to make Kaepernick’s life miserable this Sunday.
While defensive players are clearly keen on a rule that levels the playing field a bit among ball carriers, Niners offensive tackle Anthony Davis believes the NFL is attempting to push a wider agenda with the new regulations.
“I think they’re trying to get rid of these type of quarterbacks,” Davis told USA Today. “For them to make a rule that’s so anti-option-read quarterbacks, it’s kind of like sending a message that they eventually want to get rid of them.”
But with young stars such as Kaepernick, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson all embracing the read-option, the trend will not be easy to stamp out.
Hear more from Harbaugh’s news conference in the video below, courtesy of CSNBayArea.com.