Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was not penalized last season when he hit Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Rodgers delivered a pass while out of the pocket, but something similar this year would have a different result.
That was the word from NFL referee Pete Morelli on Thursday. Morelli was in Minnesota to talk to the Vikings about this year’s rules changes, including enhanced protections for defenseless players. Morelli also spoke to reporters and told them that Rodgers, who broke his collarbone on the play, would qualify under that change.
“Any time a quarterback’s in a defenseless position,” Morelli said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down on them. So, yeah, [the] Aaron Rodgers [hit] would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of pocket, established, and all that. If he’s running, that’s not the same.”
The NFL rulebook states (emphasis ours) that “when tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture (e.g., during or just after throwing a pass), a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down OR land on top of him with all or most of the defender’s weight.” In 2017, the rulebook read that a player must not “unnecessarily or violently throw him down AND land on top of him.”
Those protections extend to a quarterback rolling out as long as “the passer stops behind the line and clearly establishes a passing posture.”
The Packers will surely hope that no hits on Rodgers put Morelli’s words to the test this season, but the issue will likely come up for some quarterback and defensive player before the year is out.