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HCT question

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Had this happen earlier this year, and wanted to get thoughts/interpretation.

Ball carrier is running along the sideline, and B clearly latches onto the inside back collar of the pads, and essentially 'rides' the runner 2-3 yards, then yanks him down, buckling his knees.  I toss my flag for horsecollar tackle, (I'm a wing, and it's right in front of me) and B come us up to discuss.  He saw the same thing, but according to his interpretation of the rule, since it was not 'immediate' in that he didn't pull him down immediately, he feels it doesn't meet the definition of HCT, and ultimately was waved off. 

Actual verbiage of the rule is:

ARTICLE 15. All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside back collar of the shoulder pads or jersey, the nameplate area, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling the ball carrier down.

This really seems like splitting hairs, but my understanding of the rule is such that the 'immediate' aspect is concerning the time it takes to actually pull the runner down, not a measure of time from when he hooks into the runner's pads. 

Based on the exact wording, I think an argument could be made for either position. 

Based on what I believe to be the intent of the rule (safety), it's a foul, whether the tackler pulls him down immediately after grabbing on inside the pads, or latches inside pads, (or any other place outlined in 9-1-15), rides/gets pulled for a while, then yanks him down, in accordance with the definition of a HCT.

Which interpretation is correct?

I wouldn't mind seeing a rules change to replace immediately with suddenly, or abruptly, to minimize confusion/errors in understanding on this.

This is a safety foul.   ^flag  It's the quick jerk that buckles the knees that we are looking for.  I'm with you on this one.

Clear Lake ref:
This may be the actual hardest rule to interpret.

Had one last year that multiple graders and college guys disagreed with. The reach was there, the jerk was there, the knees buckled, and then he ran for another 10 yards or so. NFL is clear that itís HCT as it says ball carrier doesnít have to go to ground. We need that simple add on.

It has to be immediate. That was not a horsecollar

So I emailed Steve Shaw, suggesting that it be changed to abrupt or immediate, and a few hours later, got a response:

Thank you for the suggestion, and we will discuss this with our Rules Committee.  The intent of this rule was to be a player safety rule for the runner.  It was written to allow a player to ride a ball carrier down and not be a foul.  What we want to avoid is the snapping action that buckles or puts the ball carrierís legs at risk.  I agree with your call, if there is some time delay, but then the tackler abruptly pulls the runner down with that snapping motion of the runnerís legs Ė it should be a foul.

Steve Shaw
CFO National Coordinator of Football Officials
Secretary-Rules Editor, NCAA Football Rules Committee

So maybe we'll see a change soon.


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