One of the more juicy subplots of Week 1 has been answered.
San Francisco coach Jim Harbaugh apparently has his clarification.
In a video released by the NFL, narrated by vice president of officiating Dean Blandino, it is explained that quarterbacks are treated as running backs while running the read-option offense.
“The quarterback and the running back, they’re both treated as runners. We don’t know who has the football, we don’t know who’s going to take it, so both players are treated as runners,” Blandino said. “The basic concept is, the quarterback position is not defenseless throughout the down. It’s the posture he presents that will dictate his protections.”
Still, it is not totally open season on the read-option quarterback: “If the quarterback is out of the pocket, he’s clearly out of the play, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted,” Blandino said.
Wednesday, Harbaugh helped make the subject big news when he said he has had some talks with the NFL about what should and should not be legal when it comes to hitting the quarterback in the age of the read-option. Harbaugh said he will talk to officials about it prior to the game, but said he didn’t expect clarity until later in the season.
"Before he's declared to being a runner, he should be afforded the protection that all quarterbacks are afforded until he declares and gets out of the pocket and starts running with the ball or running an option or carrying out a bootleg and attempting to run or pass when he's outside of the pocket," Harbaugh said. "But while he's in the pocket, I believe he's a quarterback until he declares that he's a runner."
This all started when Green Bay linebacker Clay Matthews said this week the Packers need to get to 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick. In the playoffs last season, Kaepernick ran for a record 181 yards using the read-option offense against Green Bay.
While this may seem like an advantage for Green Bay, I don’t think this video will do much to worry Harbaugh. He is a smart, smart guy. He knows what’s going on. He was just making his point. None of the 49ers’ players, Kaepernick included, didn’t seem too concerned.
Now that the league has given him public clarity, I think Harbaugh’s plan will not change.
Still, officials will monitor the action in San Francisco closely. If Kaepernick is the subject of cheap shots, the Packers will be called on it. Harbaugh will see to it.