The NFL has told its game officials to err on the side of protecting defenseless players.
Blatant erring, the league could do without.
A roughing penalty Sunday against Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher for a hit on New England's Tom Brady played into perceptions the NFL offers special treatment for its prized quarterbacks. Would Alex Smith or Kevin Kolb or Tarvaris Jackson get such a call? I think they might, given the state of officiating. The seemingly clean hit Green Bay's Clay Matthews put on Minnesota's Christian Ponder comes to mind.
Fletcher was already moving in for the tackle when Brady attempted a late slide. Fletcher tackled Brady. Contact included a forearm to Brady's midsection, but no illegal contact. Matthews was not fined for his hit on Ponder. I doubt Fletcher will face a fine, either.
The league's emphasis on protecting defenseless players is a worthy one. This season could be one of over-correction. This will be a leading topic for the NFL during the coming offseason. I would expect some clarification of the rules and point of emphasis in an effort to find a balance.
The call against Fletcher was bad enough. Imagine if such a call moved a team into position for the winning field goal during a Super Bowl.