Will NFL bring back the ban on pushing the runner?
During the 2022 NFL season, we noticed multiple examples of offensive players pulling ball carriers in the open field. The officials failed to call it, even though the officials recently had been reminded of the rule.
As noted at the time, the rule against pushing or pulling the runner changed in 2006, allowing the pushing but banning the pulling.
On a Friday edition of PFT Live the morning after the officials failed to penalize Eagles center Jason Kelce for pulling running back Kenneth Gainwell, Peter King and I pointed out (the video is attached) the distinction between pushing and pulling, arguing that teams should fully and completely embrace the license to shove, which had been hiding in plain sight for 16 years.
Coincidentally, or not, some teams thereafter began to do it more often. None have done it more effectively than the Eagles, who have come up with a tidal-wave formation that routinely sweeps quarterback Jalen Hurts as far as the team needs the ball to go.
“It becomes a football battering ram, an inverted tug-of-war,” we wrote in early November. “Shove the guy into the end zone.”
Again, that is exactly what has happened. And so, instead of pushing happening at the end of a play when a teammate shows up and gives the ball carrier a nudge, it has become a part of short-yardage offensive strategy from the snap.
This raises the question of whether, in the coming wave of tinkering with the rules, the league will consider reverting to the pre-2006 rule that prevented both pushing and pulling.
Steelers defensive lineman Cam Heyward recently has complained about the rule, arguing that the league should go back to banning the pushing of the player with the ball.
The process of looking at potential rule changes begins at the Scouting Combine. After those discussions, the Competition Committee will put together a list of potential rule changes. Time will tell whether the rule against pushing the runner will make the cut -- and then whether at least 24 owners will support the change.
We can think of one in particular who will vote against it.