By Doug Halberstadt
I have two questions for the NFL’s referees, or, for that matter, any referee who happens to read this column. First of all, if they are going to call intentional grounding on Chicago Bears’ quarterback Caleb Hanie for what he did at the end of the game last Sunday, why isn’t it called each and every time any quarterback spikes the ball in an effort to stop the clock?
I don’t profess to be an expert on the rules, but let’s think about this for a minute. The way I understand the rule is there are three main things that determine intentional grounding. To avoid the penalty, the quarterback must be outside of where the tackles line up. The ball must be thrown beyond the line of scrimmage, and I was always under the impression there must be an eligible receiver somewhere in the area.
When any quarterback intentionally spikes the ball to stop the clock, none of those requirements is met. He isn’t outside the “tackle box.” The ball lands well behind the line of scrimmage, and the only players near the ball are offensive linemen, none of whom is eligible to catch a pass. By definition, isn’t it intentional grounding each and every time? Why was Hanie penalized and the others haven’t been? The only thing I noticed he did differently was to take a couple of steps backward and wait a split second or two before he spiked the ball.
The referee didn’t hesitate in throwing the penalty flag and calling him for intentional grounding. How is this different from any other time it’s done? I’d love a logical explanation.
While we’re at it, explain to me why the “Lambeau Leap” doesn’t draw a flag for excessive celebration after a touchdown? The referees are quick to drop a penalty flag on a player if he attempts a sommersault or backflip after scoring. Yet, the Green Bay players are allowed to run through the end zone toward the stands and leap into the crowd without the risk of drawing the penalty. This celebration lasts longer than many of the other antics I’ve seen penalized. Isn’t this a double standard?
For those of you who might be thinking I’m picking on the Packers because I’m a Bears fan, it’s really not the case. I’m all in favor of allowing the players to do backflips, sommersaults, autograph footballs, simulate a phone call home to mom, do the Icky shuffle or whatever to celebrate a touchdown. I think the only stipulation is it shouldn’t last more than 10 to 15 seconds.
I think the “Lambeau Leap” in its current form is clearly a violation of the excessive celebration rule, and until the rule is changed, should draw a penalty.
Come on, refs, all I’m asking for is consistency in your calls. I will be eagerly awaiting a response to my inquiry about these two little pet peeves of mine. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
Doug Halberstadt can be reached via e-mail at Dougster61@aol.com.
From the Nov. 30-Dec. 6, 2011, issue