Some NFL penalties better left uncalled

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Some NFL penalties better left uncalled

By Alex Wise / Staff Writer

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Well, the National Football League has done it once again. The league has found yet another way to make watching its product absolutely intolerable.

As if watching a professional football game wasn’t an hours-long commitment already — and as if watching my horrendous fantasy team collapse week in and week out wasn’t bad enough — the league’s insistence on calling “illegal use of hands” or “illegal hands to the face” penalties has made Sunday afternoons unwatchable. The NFL emphasized  enforcing the hands rules before the start of the preseason, and they have done that and then some. To start, I’m beyond impressed with the league’s referees. Not only have they gone above and beyond the call of duty when instructed to more strictly enforce these penalties, refs also have shown the brain capacity to memorize a section of the NFL’s rulebook called “Use of Hands, Arms and Body,” which is longer than papers I’ve written for English classes. Who knew that there would be so many rules against using your hands, arms and body in a game in which every player regularly uses his hands, arms and body?

For a local example, look no further than the Pittsburgh Steelers. In their home game against Indianapolis last weekend, the Steelers received two illegal use of hands penalties and two illegal contact penalties. The Colts, in return, committed multiple hands violations, but Pittsburgh declined all of them,as each play went for more than the five yards that the penalty would’ve given the Steelers. Those four — six, really — were more than the total holding calls in the game, and holding is, far and away, the most imposed penalty in football.

I don’t understand the zeal for policing the rule. Guys will use their hands in all kinds of ways because it’s an indisposable part of the game. Punishing linemen who push, shove, grab and hit each other for a living for putting their hands near someone else’s head is like punishing your dog for sniffing another dog’s behind at the park: they simply don’t know any better. This doesn’t solve any legitimate strategic problems, nor does it address player safety issues. It does, however, keep drives alive. And we all know that it’s sexier when a team’s first downs come from excessive penalty yardage instead of from punts.

On the bright side, we’re all on pace to be present for NFL history. According to, there were 79 illegal hands to the face penalties called league-wide in 2012. Last year, there were 73 illegal hands called. We’re already at 54 this year, and we’re only halfway through the regular season. Add playoffs on the end, and we’re on pace to surpass 100 illegal use of hands penalties called.

We are all witnesses.

To the NFL, I beg you: we don’t need a penalty to rival holding. If a defensive tackle happens to incidentally high-five a quarterback’s overly-cushioned ear pad, so be it. He’s not getting a concussion, brain damage or Alzheimer’s. There are bigger, safety-related issues at hand. Solve those first and worry about unintentional games of duck-duck-goose later.


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