While the NFL’s new rules for the 2018 season mean Packers fans will have to hear, “Dez caught it,” Vikings fans will undoubtedly hear, “Anthony Barr’s hit was illegal.”
In a briefing with reporters on new NFL rules and points of emphasis for the 2018 season, referee Pete Morelli said the hit Barr delivered to Aaron Rodgers on Oct. 15 — which broke the Packers star’s right collarbone and caused him to miss nine games — would now be a penalty, under Rule 12, Article 9 of the NFL’s rulebook that prevents defenders from landing on a quarterback with all or most of their body weight while the quarterback is in a defenseless position.
“Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle, instead of plopping down on them,” Morelli said when asked of the play. “So yeah, Aaron Rodgers would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of the pocket, established and all that. If he’s running, that’s not going to be the same.”
In a video that is being shown to NFL players throughout training camps and was scheduled to be shown to the Vikings on Thursday night, the voiceover says, “To further protect quarterbacks, when tackling a passer who is in a defenseless posture, the defender may not land on top of him with all or most of his body weight.”
Barr’s hit on Rodgers was not shown in the video, however, as an example of an illegal hit under the new point of emphasis.
Morelli said defenders can still make two steps toward the quarterback and tackle him when he is carrying the ball; the penalty comes when a quarterback is setting up to throw and gives up his ability to defend himself.
“If you roll out and get set up, you’re still a passer now,” Morelli said. “But if you’re rolling out and throwing and a guy chases you and tackles you, you’re not defenseless. They get two steps, and they can tackle you. You become defenseless when you’re setting up.”
Barr’s hit on the former NFL MVP started a firestorm on social media last fall, and the linebacker became a special target of angry Packers fans. Rodgers also appeared on Conan O’Brien’s talk show last fall, saying his angry response to Barr’s hit was triggered by Barr giving him the middle finger and making a lewd gesture toward him. Barr responded to Packers fans on Twitter on Oct. 28, before the team’s game against the Browns in London, saying Rodgers was shouting profanities at him before he responded.
Asked about the rule change Thursday, Barr said: “It’s difficult. You know, it’s very difficult. You’re playing fast, trying to make a play on the ball. It’s going to be tough. It will be interesting to see how that’s officiated and how it’s called.”
The league’s video also clarified its much-maligned catch rule, which famously voided a fourth-quarter Dez Bryant catch in the Packers’ 2015 NFC divisional playoff win over the Cowboys. Under the new rule, a catch is completed when a player demonstrates control of the ball, gets two feet (or another body part) on the ground, and makes a football move such as reaching to gain additional yardage. Players no longer have to maintain control of the ball when going to the ground, provided they have already satisfied the three requirements for a catch.
Diggs gets $40M guaranteed
Wide receiver Stefon Diggs’ new contract, which gives him $72 million in new money, includes $40.07 million in guaranteed money over the next three years.
Only Diggs’ $15 million signing bonus and his $1.907 million base salary this year are fully guaranteed, however. The rest of his base salary guarantees — $8.9 million in 2019, $10.9 million in 2020 and $3.3 million of his $11.4 million base in 2021 — are only guaranteed against injury for now, and would become fully guaranteed if Diggs is on the roster by the third day of each league year.
More tickets released
The Vikings announced they are releasing another round of general admission tickets for the final two weeks of their first training camp in Eagan, reflecting the amount of available space they have at their new facility, the ease of their security procedures during the first days of camp and the number of no-shows so far.
Jeff Anderson, Vikings vice president of strategic and corporate communications, said the team anticipated no-shows, given the fact GA tickets to camp were free. The Vikings, he said, can offer more GA tickets now that they have a better understanding of daily attendance patterns.
Fans can reserve up to four GA tickets per transaction on the Vikings’ website.