The NFL's competition committee is scheduled to speak on a conference call next week about the proliferation of roughing the passer penalties, two sources told ESPN on Tuesday.
The sources said the committee is concerned about the frequency of these penalties and has voiced those concerns to the league office.
"There's some concern that the officials are going a little bit too far with some of these calls," one of the sources said.
Through three weeks, there have been 34 roughing the passer calls. Through three games last year, there had been 16, and through three games in 2016, there were 20.
Part of the issue is that the league this year made a "point of emphasis" of a 23-year-old rule that prohibits defenders from landing on the quarterback with their full body weight or driving him into the ground with excessive force. The NFL says that rule has been on the books since 1995 (Rule 12 , Section 2, Article 9) and that it made it a point of emphasis this season after hearing complaints from coaching staffs that it wasn't being enforced. The competition committee issued the following recommendation this offseason:
"The Committee recommends that the Officiating department emphasize that the defender is responsible to avoid landing on the quarterback when taking him to the ground. The Committee also recommended that video be shown to players, coaches, and officials during the offseason demonstrating legal and illegal plays. Examples of rushing defenders getting their bodies to the side during the contact and avoiding putting their body weight on the quarterback must be included so that coaches can teach proper technique."
NFL officials visited all 32 training camps, as they do every year, to explain rule changes and points of emphasis. Video examples were shown of what the league describes as proper and improper technique.
That specific call has been a big part of the early-season controversy, though part of the issue the competition committee has is with hits that don't fit into that category -- for example, the controversial Clay Matthews hit on Kirk Cousins in Week 2 that led to the Vikings' game-tying touchdown. That play was put on the league's weekly teaching tape as an example of how not to sack the quarterback, but one of the sources said the competition committee was confused about whether that penalty should have been called.
"I don't recall ever hearing the terms 'scoop and lift' before," the source said.
The sources both said they don't expect any major changes this season, though discussions are ongoing and could eventually include officials.
Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who is on the competition committee, addressed the penalties in Monday's game against the Buccaneers. There were 21 penalties called total, including four roughing the passer penalties.
"I'm an appreciator of the game, somebody that's in this ecosystem that understands the entertainment of the fan makes it all go," he said. "I just say it from that perspective -- not as a member of the committee or anybody in a title position in any form or fashion, just somebody who loves football. That probably wasn't a fun game to watch."