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Jim Harbaugh sees problems with rules on read-option quarterbacks


The NFL attempted to clarify its rules about how defenses can attack read-option quarterbacks by saying publicly that those quarterbacks are treated as runners unless it is clear that they are no longer in a running posture. But 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, who has expressed concerns about opposing teams going after quarterback Colin Kaepernick, says he’s not sold on the NFL’s explanation of its rules.

“I know what the rules are, I know how they’ve been explained, but there’s still some gray area,” Harbaugh said. “When you start using words like ‘clearly’ -- he clearly doesn’t have the ball -- what does that really mean? I just handed off, I don’t have the ball, he’s got the ball, put your hands up? There’s a bit of a gray area there.”

Harbaugh said the rule would make more sense if it said that quarterbacks were protected in the pocket even if they’re in a running posture.

“To me, he’s a quarterback until he leaves the pocket as a running threat,” Harbaugh said. “I think it’s flawed, the way they’ve got it now.”

Harbaugh doesn’t like the idea that a quarterback who is running the read option can be hit even if he has handed off or pitched the ball.

“Treat him like a running back?” Harbaugh said. “You’re opening a license to hit him outside the strike zone. I’m entitled to my opinion, that’s why I answered the question. I think it’s flawed and I think it’s biased.”

Whether Harbaugh likes it or not, however, that’s the rule. And when Kaepernick is running the read option, he’s going to get hit.