The NFL on Tuesday approved a ban on players leaping over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block field goals and point after touchdowns.
Two prominent Seahawks — linebacker Bobby Wagner and safety Kam Chancellor — spoke out quickly via Twitter on Tuesday against a new NFL rule banning players leaping over the line of scrimmage to try to block field goals and point after touchdown attempts.
But according to the NFL, even the Seahawks themselves voted for the rule, which passed by a vote of 32-0 during the NFL’s league meetings in Phoenix.
“That was a pretty easy play to get out of,” said Rich McKay, the chairman of the NFL’s Competition Committee after the ban was announced among several other rules changes that were approved.
McKay said player safety was at the heart of eliminating the play, which both Wagner and Chancellor had famously employed in recent seasons. Wagner leapt over the line to block a field goal in a game at Arizona in October, a play that proved pivotal when the two teams played to a 6-6 tie. Chancellor leapt over the line twice to try to block a field goal in a divisional playoff game against Carolina following the 2014 season.
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Shortly after the ban was announced Wagner Tweeted “We are creative. We will find another way” accompanying a picture of his leap against Arizona.
Chancellor, meanwhile, Tweeted: “No Fun League… How can you entertain if you are governed by people who never broke a bone before? #TheyDontUnderstand #NFL”
McKay, though, noted that the NFL Players Association recommended the ban to the Competition Committee during a meeting earlier this month at the NFL Combine, and indicated there was little real debate. McKay said one issue is that the play was becoming potentially more dangerous as more teams tried it, and hence more teams began to prepare for it, devising blocking schemes that he said put the leaping player into even more danger.
“We all knew at some point during the season it was going to be discussed,” McKay said. “Because we saw as teams began to understand how to block it it became a little more concerning. Early on teams didn’t know how to block it — guards weren’t getting up in the air, the center wasn’t getting up, no one was chipping on the player getting a free run. Well all the sudden the player wasn’t getting a free run and the player was coming down at a really bad angle.”
McKay said when the NFL met with members of the NFLPA at the Combine that the players “universally” wanted the play banned.
“When we met with the Players Association, to a person they were quick to say ‘we don’t like this play and we really don’t like the fact that somebody on Monday gets selected to have to do that play and be that person,”’ McKay said. “So that (the NFLPA recommendation) absolutely always plays a part in our discussion.”
Chancellor and Wagner had each also taken to Twitter last week to protest when the ban was first proposed.
“They are trying to turn our league more and more into the #NoFunLeague,” Chancellor Tweeted.
Tweeted Wagner: “they shouldn’t (ban it). It’s fun jumping, I think the fans like it too.”
The ban was officially submitted by the Eagles. But that came after the recommendation from the NFL Players Association.
According to the Washington Post, NFLPA president Eric Winston — who was briefly in camp with the Seahawks in 2014 — said the union was proposing the ban for the good of the health of the players.
“The jumping over on the field goal, I think, is just leading to a really dangerous play for everybody,” Winston said. “If you jump over the center, the jumper is in a really bad spot. He can land on his head. I think the guys that are getting jumped over are going to end up getting hurt, with those guys landing on them. So I’ll be very interested to see what they’ll do there. I think something probably needs to be done.”
Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, Seattle’s player rep, is on the NFLPA’s Executive Committee.
NFL research showed that three of the 41 blocked kicks in 2016 were by a defender who hurdled the line, as Wagner did at Arizona.
Among other rules passed by the NFL on Tuesday was giving a receiver a pass route the same protection as a defenseless player. This eliminates the ability of a cornerback to blast a receiver when a quarterback has left the pocket, as Sherman famously did on the final play of Seattle’s 31-25 win over Buffalo last season. Sherman hit Buffalo receiver Walter Powell on the play, and after some observers questioned it, Sherman took to Twitter to note :“(T)hat’s what happens when the QB scrambles . . .check the rule book.”