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NFL unlikely to cap pass interference penalties at 15 yards


Steve Dykes

Among the many topics of discussion as the NFL world begins to descend on Indianapolis for the Scouting Combine is whether to change the pass interference rule so that the maximum penalty is 15 yards, as is the case in college football.

That has been discussed before and the NFL has always declined to change the rule, preferring instead to keep defensive pass interference as a spot foul. And it’s unlikely that the NFL will change the rule this year, either.

NFL rules changes almost always favor the offense, and especially passing offense. A rule change that would favor the defense would be very out of character for the league, particularly after the 2017 season, when passing and scoring were down, and television ratings were down simultaneously. If anything, the NFL is going to lean toward changing rules to encourage more offense and more scoring.

Capping pass interference at 15 yards would do the opposite: It would allow defensive backs who are burned on deep passes to dive at a receiver’s legs and try to trip him before he can get the ball, knowing that a 15-yard penalty is a lot better than a 50-yard reception.

The league may consider two types of pass interference, with flagrant interference remaining a spot foul but incidental interference capped at 15 yards. But it seems unlikely that the NFL would want to add more subjectivity to enforcement of a penalty that fans and defensive backs alike already complain is enforced too inconsistently.

So the smart money is on pass interference rules staying exactly as they are. Plenty of peple don’t like the rule, but few can agree on the best way to fix it.