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Panthers coach Ron Rivera sides with NFL on read-option interpretation

CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Carolina Panthers coach Ron Rivera says the NFL is "right on" with its interpretation of when a quarterback can or can’t be hit as it pertains to the zone-read option.

Rivera has more than a passing interest since his starting quarterback, Cam Newton, runs the read option more than most.

Rivera also is on the subcommittee for the NFL competition committee.

The interpretation of the rule came into question Saturday night when Philadelphia Eagles quarterback Sam Bradford was hit low by Baltimore Ravens outside linebacker Terrell Suggs after handing off to running back Darren Sproles out of the shotgun.

Suggs was penalized for a personal foul on the play for roughing the passer. On Monday, NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino told the NFL Network that a flag should not have been thrown.

“If the quarterback has an option, he’s considered a runner until he either clearly doesn’t have the football or he re-establishes himself as a passer," Blandino said. “So it’s not a foul by rule."

Eagles coach Chip Kelly insisted that Bradford, who suffered a season-ending ACL injury during the 2014 preseason with the St. Louis Rams, was not running the read option. Kelly claimed it simply was a handoff out of the shotgun.

Rivera sided with the league.

“The biggest thing we talk about ... is how the quarterback has to react," Rivera said Tuesday. “If the quarterback hands the ball off and surrenders, basically stops, then he should not be hit.

“If he hands the ball off and continues to fake, now you’ve got to be careful because ... some of these guys have really adapted good at faking the ball. Then he becomes a live target."

Rivera said he and his coaches -- both offensively and defensively -- have gone over the rule with players. He said Newton in particular has a good understanding of the rule.

“Part of it is, too, how obvious the handoff is," Rivera said. “If the handoff is given, the guy takes a second step ... once he takes a second step, you’re allowed to hit.

“Again, there’s a lot of interpretation there. We try to make sure we’re aware of it, our quarterback is aware of it, and we try to take care of him that way."