On Sunday, a brawl broke out between the Washington Redskins and Philadelphia Eagles following a hit on Nick Foles by Redskins defensive lineman Chris Baker.
Baker was ejected for the hit and many football fans were left complaining that the ruling was unfair, that Baker made what they are calling “a good football play,” and that Foles should have been protecting himself.
Those who disagree with the call point to Foles being within close proximity of the runner making him a potential tackler and whether Foles was truly what we would consider a “defenseless player.”
The fact is, according to the NFL rules, none of that matters.
A quarterback, by definition, is a “defenseless player” anytime there has been a change of possession, no matter where he is on the field, no matter what he is doing, and no matter what his posture actually is.
Here is Article 9 of Rule 12 (Player Conduct) in the NFL rule book:
So Foles was by definition “in a defenseless posture.”
On top of that, the hit would have been illegal even if Foles wasn’t a quarterback according to the very next line of the rule.
The hit by Baker was a “blindside block” as he was indeed moving “toward his own endline” (i.e. he was moving in the opposite direction that his team is going) and approached Foles “from behind or from the side.” It doesn’t matter that he actually hit the front of Foles as the rule only judges where the player approached from.
That provision makes the player “defenseless” no matter who it is or what position they play.
Ultimately, none of this means Baker is not allowed to block Foles. If Foles is considered a threat to the play, blocking him is absolutely legal. But what the defender cannot do is block him excessively.
This was excessive and unnecessary.
Furthermore, if there is any doubt, officials are always instructed to err on the side of player safety. That means if there is any doubt, the hit is illegal, not the other way around.
People may not like the rule but that is a different argument. According to how the rule is written now, the officials made the correct call and were well-within their rights to eject the player if they thought it was flagrant.
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