NFL muddled explanation of fateful rule change

NFL muddled explanation of fateful rule change
October 20, 2013, 9:30 pm
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EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. – Why was Bill Belichick so adamant when specifying that Chris Jones was at the line of scrimmage and not at “the second level” when Jones drew Sunday’s fateful penalty for pushing a teammate on a field goal try?
 
Because the term “second level” worked its way into the NFL’s explanation of how the newly-instituted rule would be interpreted.
 
In a September story detailing rules changes in the kicking game published on NFL.com, the pertinent portion of the rule was explained saying, “Team B players not at the line of scrimmage at the snap cannot push players at the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation.”
 
In a video accompanying the story, NFL VP of officiating Dean Blandino explains that defensive linemen “can not push from the second level the down linemen into the offensive linemen.”
 
Here is a photo of the story as it appeared until 6:31 p.m.
 
At 6:32 p.m., about two hours after Belichick made mention of the “second level” the story was updated. The words “not at the line of scrimmage at the snap” were eliminated.
 
As of 9 p.m. Sunday night, Blandino’s video specifying the “second level” was still on the site.
 
Jones, most certainly, was on the line of scrimmage when the ball was snapped.
 
So when you factor in that the league’s website and, even more importantly, the man in charge of officiating is making this second-level distinction, you can see where Belichick may have gotten the idea to let a lineman loop behind a teammate after the snap. Especially on a long field goal demanding a low trajectory which would be susceptible to middle-of-the-line penetration.
 
All that aside, the call was right. The rule, as it is written, does not specify players at the line of scrimmage or off of it. It just says no pushing (Rule 913).
 
So the penalty call was correct.

What could have been better, it seems, was the league’s explanation of the rule to the member teams. Starting with Dean Blandino.
 
And while it’s smart to make sure that anything on the website that’s misleading gets tidied up, jumping in 90 minutes after a game to scrub evidence just looks . . . bad.