Vikings linebacker Anthony Barr was not penalized last season when he hit Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers after Rodgers delivered a pass while out of the pocket, but something similar this year would have a different result.
While the NFL’s new rules for the 2018 season will mean Packers fans have to hear “Dez caught it,” Vikings fans will undoubtedly hear “Anthony Barr’s hit was illegal.”
In a briefing with reporters on new Football rules and points of emphasis for the 2018 season, referee Pete Morelli said the hit Barr delivered to Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers last Oct. 15 — which broke Rodgers’ right collarbone and caused him to miss nine games last season — would now be a penalty, under Rule 12, Article 9 of the NFL’s rule book that prevents defenders from landing on a quarterback with all or most of their body weight while the quarterback is in a defenseless position.
“Any time a quarterback’s in a defenseless position,” Morelli said, via Chris Tomasson of the Pioneer Press. “Players will have to kind of roll to the side when they make that tackle instead of plopping down on them. So, yeah, [the] Aaron Rodgers [hit] would be a foul this year. As long as he’s out of pocket, established, and all that. If he’s running, that’s not the same.” 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 Football MVP started a firestorm on social media last fall, as the linebacker became a special target of Packers’ fans ire for the hit. Rodgers also appeared on Conan O’Brien’s 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.