Skip navigation
Sign up to follow your favorites on all your devices.
Sign up

Ken Whisenhunt asks NFL: What is the rule on hitting quarterbacks?

Ken Whisenhunt

Arizona Cardinals head coach Ken Whisenhunt, right, argues a call with a referee during the second half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 27, 2011, in Glendale, Ariz. The Chargers won 34-31. (AP Photo/Paul Connors)


During Sunday’s Panthers-Cardinals game, Carolina quarterback Cam Newton threw an interception that was called back because Arizona defensive back Richard Marshall was flagged for roughing the passer. That flag had Cardinals coach Ken Whisenhunt wondering what the rule is on hits to quarterbacks.

“What exactly is the rule in that instance?” Whisenhunt asked at his press conference. “I mean, that’s something that I’ve got to get clarification on.”

Whisenhunt is right to ask for clarification: Marshall did leave his feet to hit Newton, but he led with his shoulder into Newton’s shoulder, not with his head into Newton’s head. It’s obviously still not clear to coaches, players or fans whether what Marshall did should be a penalty or not.

Part of the problem is that the officials don’t offer enough clarity about what they’re calling. When the referee announced the penalty on Marshall, he just said it was roughing the passer -- he didn’t explain what, exactly, Marshall did that constitutes roughing the passer. Whisenhunt said he’s going to need a clarification from the league office because when he asked the ref during the game he didn’t get an adequate explanation.

“I asked him what it was called for,” Whisenhunt said. “Was it a hit to the head? I think [Marshall] tried to do it the right way. He certainly didn’t lead with his head.”

Last month the NFL released a video that was supposed to clarify the rules to players and coaches. There’s clearly a lot more clarification needed. Whisenhunt is trying to get some clarification from the league office this week.