On Saturday, the NFL announced the players fines from Week 8, and two Detroit Lions players were found guilty of actions requiring fines. Linebacker Jack Campbell was fined $14,871 for an illegal hit on the quarterback, while cornerback Jerry Jacobs was fined $5,229 for unnecessary roughness.
Let’s take a closer look at each foul, and sse if the officials got it right.
Jack Campbell’s illegal hit on the quarterback
In the fourth quarter against the Las Vegas Raiders, Campbell was sent on a blitz, fell, and collided with Jimmy Garoppolo right at his left knee. It’s a particularly brutal hit, and it’s no surprise it drew a flag. Honestly, it’s surprising Garoppolo wasn’t seriously injured.
Jack Campbell was called for roughing the passer on Jimmy Garoppolo. pic.twitter.com/Vp7njgzPN3— Tanner Phifer (@TannerPhiferNFL) October 31, 2023
But let’s take a closer look at the actual rule. Here’s the illegal quarterback hit stipulation at hand:
A rushing defender is prohibited from forcibly hitting in the knee area or below a passer who has one or both feet on the ground, even if the initial contact is above the knee. It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him. A defender cannot initiate a roll or launch and forcibly hit the passer in the knee area or below, even if he is being contacted by another player.
On the surface, this looks like a no-brainer foul. But here’s where things get a little tricky. Upon closer examination of the play, you can see that Campbell is actually tripped by the Raiders’ left guard, and as it says in the rulebook “It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.”
FWIW, Jack Campbell clearly trips over the left guard’s foot before his roughing the passer penalty.— Jeremy Reisman (@DetroitOnLion) November 4, 2023
Reading the rulebook, it’s hard to tell if that matters.
“It is not a foul if the defender is blocked (or fouled) into the passer and has no opportunity to avoid him.” pic.twitter.com/pYf1FrjEeg
It’s debatable whether Campbell had an opportunity to avoid Garoppolo, but what about Campbell, was he fouled? Tripping is a foul described as, “the use of the leg or foot to obstruct any opponent.”
A trip occurs, but it’s also clear it’s not intentional. The guard has his back to Campbell. And while there is nothing in the rulebook suggesting a trip has to be flagrant or intentional to be a foul, that is how it is commonly enforced.
So in the end, I think this is probably the right call with the way the rulebook is commonly enforced.
Jerry Jacobs unnecessary roughness
You may not remember, but Jacobs was penalized for one of the most rare calls in the NFL: an illegal low block on the defense.
In short, on a toss to his side of the field, Jacobs took out the lead blocker by cutting him at the knees.
While rarely called, it is very clearly a foul. Via Rule 12, Section 2, Article 4d of the rulebook:
Blocks below the waist are prohibited in the following situations:
(d) By players of either team during a scrimmage down prior to a change of possession unless the contact occurs in the tight end box. (Note: Players are prohibited from initiating contact below the waist of an opponent outside the tight end box (See 3-34), except against a runner or a player who is attempting to catch a forward or backward pass).
After the game, coach Dan Campbell talked about the foul, and how it’s actually fairly new to the NFL.
“They put that in two years ago and it was the—that’s the crack back. You’re running a sweep, tackles cannot cut corners anymore. Like if you’re a pulling tackle or tight end or fullback you cannot take the legs out of – and neither can corners take the legs out of a lineman.”