KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict picked up a five-game suspension from the NFL for a hit on Chiefs’ fullback Anthony Sherman, shining a spotlight on new rules and points of emphasis for the 2017 season.
The rule approved by NFL owners during the offseason awards defenseless player protection to receivers running pass routes from behind and the side. Receivers lose defenseless receiver status when they become a blocker or assume a blocking position.
Chiefs offensive coordinator Matt Nagy approves of the rule change.
“There were some things that some teams were doing in order to take advantage of the crossers and the shallow cross game,” Nagy said. “I think it’s a good thing.”
Burfict’s hit on Sherman appears a textbook definition of the hits the league hopes to prevent.
Don’t think Vontaze Burfict hit is dirty in “traditional” sense but clearly a violation of new NFL rule making receivers defenseless. pic.twitter.com/dWnZ17qwCz
— Will Brinson (@WillBrinson) August 28, 2017
“Offensively and defensively everyone’s just going to have to learn how to play it out,” Nagy said.
Defensive coordinator Bob Sutton agreed.
“It’s just part of the game,” Sutton said. “You have to adjust. It’s the way it’s going to be.”
Sutton said defensive players put themselves in jeopardy anytime they hit above the shoulder pads. He thinks most players have taken to the rule well.
“I think it’s going to make for a better game,” Sutton said.
Giving receivers running pass routes defenseless player protection is one of three new rules approved by NFL owners this offseason. The league also approved:
- Prohibiting on running toward the line of scrimmage and leaping across the line in blocking a field goal of extra point try. Previously the rule penalized leapers if they made contact with other players. Now leapers cannot cross the line of scrimmage.
- Eliminating crackback blocks by offensive players in the backfield or in motion. Players in motion can block upfield but cannot block toward the line of scrimmage.
- Reducing the length of overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes.
The Chiefs have been tripped up in the preseason by other rules the league remains focused on, particularly on special teams.
Officials flagged defensive tackle Cam Thomas for using leverage in attempt to block a field goal against San Francisco. Defensive tackle Bennie Logan drew a penalty against Seattle for overloading the defensive line on a field goal block.
Special teams coordinator Dave Toub says rules changes in recent years place a premium on protecting the long snapper on special teams.
“If you touch any part of the center on a field goal, if your body touches his shoulder, they’re going to call a penalty,” Toub said.
He also believes officials in the preseason stand on high alert to put emhasis on the special teams protections.
“In the preseason they want to try to make a point that, ‘Hey, we’re looking for this,'” Toub said. “It could be right on it and they’re going to call it. They’ve got their hand on the flag ready.”