Vivlamore reporting from Flowery Branch.
Rich McKay, President and CEO of the Falcons, serves on the NFL’s competition committee which is, in part, responsible for rule changes and clarifications. In a regular feature as part of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s football coverage, McKay will break down a rule or issue facing the league each week.
This week: The enforcement of the snap-simulation rule.
During the first quarter of the Falcons’ season-opening victory over the Chiefs last week, quarterback Matt Ryan was flagged for making too demonstrative of a pre-snap gesture. He was called for a 5-yard false-start penalty, one of only two infractions on the Falcons.
Ryan should have seen it coming.
While the so-called “Peyton Manning” rule has long been in the books, McKay conceded that its enforcement has been relaxed in recent years. Not anymore.
“This wasn’t a rule change, this was a point of emphasis this year,” McKay said. “[Simulating a snap] could include a tight end, a running back and, in this case, the point of emphasis was on quarterbacks and their use of thrusting their hands and making quick and sudden movements.
“The reason was they drew some offsides penalties last year that defensive players and defensive coaches, rightly, said crossed the line. We emphasized that you are not allowed to have a sudden movement, and you are not allowed to simulate the start of a play.”
McKay knew the point of emphasis would affect several quarterbacks, including two in the NFC South, namely the Saints’ Drew Brees and Ryan.
According to McKay, the players’ association was informed of the intention, and it was included in the competition committee’s annual report to membership in March. Further, officials explained new rules and interpretations to players during training camp, both in written and video form.
The rule was relaxed in an effort to allow offenses to communicate in noisy and hostile environments without the need to put devices in helmets.
“We were very focused as a league in allowing quarterbacks to execute the silent count,” McKay said. “What you saw people doing was raising their leg once, then raising their leg twice, and ways to communicate so defenses couldn’t just tee off on the offense. But what happened, you started seeing quarterbacks move their hands forward, and a lot of different things that we sudden movements that were not allowed under our rules.”
McKay said quarterbacks are still allowed to move and change plays at the line of scrimmage. It’s part of the referee’s discretion when those movements are too close to simulating the start of a play.
There is a chance it could be called again this week when Manning, the master of movement at the line of scrimmage, and Ryan meet in the Monday night showdown between the Broncos and Falcons.
“You can still operate; you can still do all the things you need to do; you just can’t make a sudden movement with your hands that can lead to offsides [penalties],” McKay said.
- Chris Vivlamore
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