The rise in roughing the passer penalties have been a hot topic early in the NFL season, and former Cowboys tight end Jason Witten is the latest to join the conversation.
Witten was on the call for ESPN’s Monday Night Football game between the Steelers and Buccaneers. After the Steelers’ fourth roughing the passer penalty of the night, Witten gave his take on the new rules.
“They’ve just gone too far with that rule,” Witten said. “I knew they were going to make it about the health and safety and protecting these quarterbacks. It just seems like we went a little bit to the left wing on that with our approach on trying to protect it. Not only are the players frustrated, but the coaches. They don’t know how to coach this. That’s when you have a challenge with this rule.”
The Cowboys were a victim of the rule on Sunday against the Seahawks when Tyrone Crawford was flagged for tackling quarterback Russell Wilson. Officials ruled that Crawford put his body weight on Wilson as they hit the ground.
“I’m going to hit the quarterback the way I’ve always hit him,” Crawford said. “If they’re trying to take that much away from us, it is what it is, man. I’m going to hit like that regardless.”
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones weighed in on the play after the game.
“That was a tough call,” Jones said. “That was not roughing the passer under the existing rules. That just was not roughing the passer. …
“Actually on review, you will see that he was attempting to finesse the tackle. There’s no question he was finessing it. He was in position to really put his weight and deliver a blow.
Witten was not the first Cowboys legend-turned-broadcaster to criticize the penalties. FOX analyst and former Cowboys quarterback Troy Aikman made his opinion known after the Crawford call.
“I don’t agree with it, but I’m tired of talking about it,” Aikman said Sunday. “And these are plays that are changing outcomes of games. Tyrone Crawford comes in, a textbook play in most years. This year, for some reason, whatever reason, it’s a penalty and Seattle keeps the ball.”
Cowboys VP Stephen Jones is on the NFL’s competition committee, and said on his weekly radio show that they would continue to evaluate the rule.
“We’ll continue to look at this and for ways to find the happy medium that we can protect our players,” Jones said. “Player safety is paramount. But at the same time, not take away from the greatness of the game.”
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