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Some quarterbacks question league's over-protection of passers

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  • Some quarterbacks question league's over-protection of passers

    Brett Favre certainly appreciates the NFL's concern for his safety. Still, even he thinks the league and its officials sometimes go too far to protect quarterbacks.

    "It's something that has maybe been overemphasized a bit, because there are some [calls] that are very questionable," the 40-year-old Minnesota Vikings quarterback said. "It's tough when it may determine an outcome of a game and it's not as obvious as you may think it is."

    Imagine how the pass-rushers feel when, Sunday after Sunday, the NFL navigates the fine line between protecting its most valuable assets -- quarterbacks -- and putting defenses at a competitive disadvantage.

    Each week, a Tom Brady or a Peyton Manning gets hit, a flag is thrown, 15 yards are marked off and, eventually, the guilty party is fined several thousand dollars. Roughing-the-passer penalties are on the rise in the first season of the so-called "Brady Rule," reversing a steady decline from 2005-08, and the guys who get paid to harass quarterbacks aren't the only ones raising questions.

    "I want to be a football player," Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco said, "and the bottom line is: If we get hit, we get hit."

    The NFL, for its part, isn't worried about whether it might be overprotecting quarterbacks. Quite the opposite, actually, in large part because passers are considered vulnerable while scanning the field for open receivers.

    "Doesn't bother me at all," league vice president of officiating Mike Pereira said.

    "We're not going to back off protecting players' heads and necks, and we're not going to back off protecting quarterbacks' knees," Pereira said, calling those "areas that we're going to go maybe even beyond where people would want us to go."

    And what of Favre's observation that some of those penalties are "questionable"?

    Well, that's OK, too.

    "From your high school officiating days, basically, you are told, 'Don't call a foul unless you are 100 percent sure it's a foul.' ... But in player safety, as opposed to being 100 percent sure, it's, 'If you're in doubt, throw [a flag],'" Pereira said. "If we do make an error, but it is in the context of player safety, we'll live with that. We want to do everything we can to protect the players."

    Those good intentions can alter the way the game is played. Defenders complain that the extra scrutiny affects how they go after quarterbacks, which could help explain why sack totals dropped over each of the past four seasons.

    "I'm sure the officials are barked at about enforcing those rules. They're looking for it. Some things, they're looking for too much. It has gotten to the point where it's ridiculous," Miami Dolphins defensive end Jason Taylor said.

    Perhaps. But the emphasis on player safety is only expanding.

    That's why defenseless receivers are getting extra safeguarding, too, why horse-collar tackles were banned in 2005, and why, as Pereira pointed out, unnecessary roughness calls are up about 25 percent this season.

    What stand out, though, are the calls that protect quarterbacks, those millions-earning-and-millions-generating marketing machines. As go quarterbacks, so go their franchises.

    Entering Sunday, this season's four highest-rated passers -- Peyton Manning of the Colts, Eli Manning of the Giants, Drew Brees of the Saints and Favre -- play for teams that are a combined 19-0. The four lowest-rated passers -- Derek Anderson of the Browns, JaMarcus Russell of the Raiders, Josh Johnson of the Buccaneers and Jake Delhomme of the Panthers -- play for teams that are a combined 3-16.

    That's why half of the 10 highest NFL base salaries in 2009 belong to quarterbacks (no other position has more than one representative on the list). That's why when NFL television broadcasts, even pregame shows, cut to commercials, odds are you'll see a product pitch from a quarterback. During Monday Night Football this week, a TV spot promoting one of the league's own websites was built around slo-mo footage of Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez.

    "They are key players, the captains and leaders of the offense. When you lose them, you've suffered an awfully big loss," Houston Texans owner Bob McNair said. "The fans want them on the field; the coaches and owners want them on the field. We all do."

    The league's owners -- "the ones who get to decide how we're going to protect the quarterbacks," Pereira said -- voted before this season to bar defensive players who've gone to the ground from lunging to make "forcible contact" on the passer at or below the knees.

    The change quickly became known as the "Brady Rule," because the New England Patriots star missed the final 15 games of 2008 after taking a hit to his lower left leg.

    "Hey, it's a quarterbacks' league," is the way Washington Redskins defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth put it. "You don't see them making rules to help defensive linemen."

    Indeed, rule after rule seems to make their jobs tougher.

    Pereira considers penalties and fines not only punishments but also deterrents, and he thinks the reason roughing-the-passer calls went from a decade-high of 135 in 2004 to a low of 60 in 2008 is that players became increasingly wary of drawing fouls.

    That roughing-the-passer penalties are on pace to climb back up to 75 or more this season could be a result of the latest rule shift.

    "You have to really think about it before you hit him," Denver Broncos defensive lineman Vonnie Holliday said. "It may turn into a brush as opposed to taking him to the ground. You look at the games, every time the guy hits the quarterback, his head immediately goes to the official to see if he's reaching for that flag."

    There are NFL players who believe Brady and other elite quarterbacks draw calls from officials more than less-accomplished QBs, likening it to the way NBA players long have maintained referees in that league coddle superstars.

    "Sometimes," Washington Redskins quarterback Jason Campbell said, "it's probably predicated on who it is."

    Last weekend, the Tennessee Titans were whistled twice on one drive for roughing Peyton Manning, a three-time league MVP whose left leg was hurt on one of the hits. The week before, Tennessee's Tony Brown was fined $10,000 for a pair of hits on the Jacksonville Jaguars' lower-profile quarterback, David Garrard, but neither drew a flag.

    Brady, the 2007 MVP, was at the center of a brouhaha in Week 4, when two of New England's touchdowns against Baltimore were set up by roughing-the-passer calls. Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis, who was fined Friday for hits in last weekend's loss to Cincinnati, found it "embarrassing to the game." His teammate Terrell Suggs said, "Maybe next year it'll be two-hand touch to get a sack."

    Brady's take? He's not in Favre's camp on this.

    "Are you kidding me? We're holding the ball, we're unprotected, just sitting there defenseless. So they've got to stay away from me," he said. "They deserve to get flagged."
    Brady, just take off the skirt. Seriously.

  • #2
    You're also paid more than any of the other guys out there Brady.


    • #3
      Brady seems to forget that while he is still holding the ball, defensive players can tee off on him all they want.

      That quote makes it sound like Brady doesnt want to be touched at all, even when he still has the ball.

      Tom needs to grow a pair.
      LET 'ER BUCK!!!
      Adopted by: Peanut, Chazoe60, CanDB, RealBronco and JakeNbake


      • #4
        thats pretty shocking that he said that. Man what a little girl, they need to stay away from me? Its their job to try and get sacks.

        I dont really understand the standing unprotected line either. You got pads and a helmet just like every other player on the field and you have 5+players blocking for you.


        • #5
          what a V... "they need to stay away from me while i throw to welker and moss" god what a poon


          • #6
            Wow, Brady is a total D-bag...