The proposal owes its existence to the controversial, season-ending low block New York Jets guard Matt Slauson delivered against Houston Texans linebacker Brian Cushing last season. But the rule would also address blocks such as the one Seattle right tackle Breno Giacomini delivered against Rams defensive end Chris Long on that 49-yard strike from Russell Wilson to tight end Anthony McCoy in the regular-season finale at CenturyLink Field.
Seattle trailed at the time, 7-3, and had been struggling offensively to that point in the game. Wilson rolled to his right on a bootleg and threw deep for McCoy. While Wilson rolled out to his right, Giacomini peeled back and cut down Long at the knees and from the side. The play was legal under the rules as they currently exist.
Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who serves on the NFL's competition committee, explained the thinking behind the change.
"The peel-back block is an act usually by an offensive player that's going to go downfield and moving down the line of scrimmage and then turn back towards his own end line and then block low," Fisher explained. "Prior to this proposal, it was permissible inside the tackle box, so the guard could start the play, turn back on the screen pass, turn back around [and] as long as he hadn't left the tackle box, it was permissible for him to block low on a defenseless player."
NFL owners will vote on rules changes this week. Fisher said this proposed change has met no resistance from coaches. That's a good indication the rule will take effect for the 2013 season, forcing adjustments from offensive linemen who already feel at a disadvantage against faster defensive players.
Former NFL referee Al Riveron, now part of the league's officiating office, reviewed the Giacomini play for reporters during a competition committee news conference Monday.
"You'll see here it's going to be the right tackle," Riveron said in walking reporters through a video replay. "He's going to set him up and now block back towards his own end line below the waist from the side. That's in the tackle box, that's legal last year. Under the new rule change proposal it would make the block illegal and we feel that that player, he doesn't have to go low there; he has options. He can go high, he can wall him off. That's the block we want to get out of the game."
The block Slauson delivered against Cushing would have been allowed under existing rules if delivered inside the tackle box, which covers the area between the tackles and no more than 3 yards downfield.
"We're still allowing adjacent linemen to [block low] in the run game," Fisher said. "This is just typically in pass plays where most times you have a defenseless player that doesn't see the block.
"A lot of the discussion we had even with the players in Indy [at the combine], the players were OK when the adjacent lineman if the play starts this way, when this adjacent lineman went low as long as he got his head across. They're used to that, they anticipate that, so there was not a lot of concern there."