While coaches around the NFL grumble about the league’s controversial new roughing the passer rules, Bill Belichick is refusing to acknowledge they exist.
“I don’t really know what you’re talking about,” the New England Patriots coach said in a conference call Monday. “There’s not any new rules that I’m aware of.”
And technically, Belichick is right: There weren’t any actual rule changes regarding roughing the passer this past offseason, just tweaks to the “points of emphasis” officials are instructed to focus on.
Those tweaks already have had a significant impact, however.
Through five weeks, refs have thrown a whopping 50 flags for roughing the passer — up from 29 at this point last season — several of which have directly affected the outcome of games.
“Man, these penalties are costing people games and jobs,” Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin said after Sunday’s win over the Atlanta Falcons, which featured a highly questionable penalty on linebacker T.J. Watt. “We’ve got to get them correct. So I’m pissed about it, to be quite honest with you.”
Belichick, though, doesn’t see what all the fuss is about.
“They’re not new rules,” said Belichick, who similarly downplayed the NFL’s new helmet rule during the preseason. “You’re not allowed to lead with your head, you’re not allowed to body-slam the quarterback, you’re not allowed to hit him below the knees, you’re not allowed to hit him above the shoulders. If he’s out of the pocket, then some of those rules change. If he’s in the pocket, you’re allowed to horse-collar him. But the rules are the rules.
“I hope you’re not implying that we’ve been coaching something that’s illegal and now we’re changing the way we’re coaching it, because that’s simply not the case. So I’m not really sure what new rule it is you’re talking about here. We’ve coached the rules as they’ve been written and as we’ve received them.
“Whatever the emphasis is, that doesn’t change the fundamental of the rule. I’ve never taught anybody to hit a quarterback above the shoulders or hit him below the knees or body-slam him or lead with our helmet and spear him. We’ve never taught that, so I’m not really sure what you’re referring to.”
Belichick’s teaching methods seem to be working. The Patriots are one of just eight teams that have not been penalized for roughing the passer this season.