There will be a lot of talk about the hit that T.J. Ward hit on Cowboys receiver Kevin Ogletree. You may not like the rules, but the latest NFL rules give referees latitude to call unnecessary roughness in their judgement at basically any time at all. So all the talk about whether T.J. Ward hit Ogletree in the chest or not is moot, unfortunately. Don’t mistake my explanation as justification for the rule. I don’t particularly like the rules, but it is important to understand them.
From the official NFL rulebook, emphasis mine.
Penalty: For unnecessary roughness: Loss of 15 yards. The player may be disqualified if the action is judged by the official(s) to be flagrant.
Note: If in doubt about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness.
And from the section on defenseless players, which Ogletree clearly was…
(2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player;
And a bit more on defenseless players…
(b) Prohibited contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture is:
(1) Forcibly hitting the defenseless player’s head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulder, regardless of whether the defensive player also uses his arms to tackle the defenseless player by encircling or grasping him; and
(2) Lowering the head and making forcible contact with the top/crown or forehead/”hairline” parts of the helmet against any part of the defenseless player’s body.
This last part is particularly popular to quote when trying to defend hits, but this clearly isn’t defensible contact in the new NFL. While T.J. Ward’s hit wasn’t the textbook definition of prohibited contact on a defenseless player in the last bit, it is superceded by the first part that gives referees to levy penalties basically whenever a play passes the eye test for unnecessary roughness.
Even the most defensive of Browns fans must admit that the play looked really violent and bad. The only choice for big hitting defensive backs like Ward is to save those jarring hits for players who have already caught the ball and are making football moves. When he is arriving so close to the time where the ball is arriving he needs to only make plays on the ball, it would seem. This is the new NFL and I know it takes some getting used to, but it won’t ever go back.