The CFL finally planning to use replay to address QB headshots

After a 2018 season that saw the league come under fire for its inability to protect quarterbacks from dirty hits, the CFL rules committee has recommended several changes designed to address the issue.

They include:

• the ability for the command centre to upgrade a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty to a 25-yard infraction for a direct blow to the quarterback’s head or neck with the helmet when the player has a clear view to the quarterback without mitigating circumstances such as the pivot ducking their head.

• the command centre assisting referees with called and non-called roughing the passer penalties including instances where an obvious roughing the passer penalty was not called because a referee’s view was blocked.

• whistling a play dead anytime a quarterback carrying the ball gives himself up by sliding with any part of his body. Currently, a quarterback can only give himself up by sliding feet first.

There were several troubling instances involving missed calls last season, this one on Travis Lulay or this one on Mike Reilly or this one on Bo Levi Mitchell. or this hit from Odell Willis on Zach Collaros or this one on Brandon Bridge.

“There is a real focus here on player safety in general and the health of quarterbacks in particular,” Darren Hackwood, the league’s senior director of officiating, said in a statement.

The rules committee is also recommending:

  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials in calling penalties when the injury spotter has intervened in a player safety situation.
  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials with called and non-called roughing the kicker penalties.
  • Removing the stipulation that allows a defender to contact a kicker’s plant leg without penalty if the defender has touched the ball prior to contact.
  • Clarifying the definition of spearing to be when a player uses the top of their helmet as the primary point of contact to deliver a blow to an opponent.
  • Making the use of three or more wedge blockers on kicking plays illegal.
  • Making it illegal for a defensive player to deliver a forcible blow to the long snapper while the snapper’s head is down and he is in a vulnerable position and unable to protect himself.

The committee is also recommending given coaches a second challenge if their first is successful, giving them a potential maximum of two per game instead of just one. That move comes after coaches were repeatedly compelled to use their single challenges early in the game to correct clear officiating errors.

Other recommendations include:

  • A 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty be assessed for faking or embellishing contact, otherwise known as diving.
  • Spearing on any player be upgraded to a 25-yard penalty by the Command Centre when a blow is delivered with the top of the defender’s helmet and he has a clear view to the opponent and there are not mitigating circumstances such as the opponent ducking his head.
  • If a player receives two 25-yard penalties in the same game, he will be disqualified from that game.
  • A kicked or thrown football remain a live ball instead of becoming a dead ball when it touches a goal-post ribbon.

The rules committee is made up of head coaches, general managers, team presidents, league officials and a representative of the CFL Players’ Association. Its recommendations now go the CFL Board of Governors which will make its decision later this spring.

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