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With Jon Runyan running rules department, the fox is running the henhouse


On one hand, former NFL offensive tackle Jon Runyan is a curious choice to impose fines and other discipline for players who violate on-field rules. On the other hand, who knows the lay of the land better than a guy who wasn’t afraid to take the rules to the limit, and beyond?

Consider the following 2005 interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, in which Runyan spoke at length regarding his on-field behavior.

The rules are there and you have to push them,” Runyan said. “Every time you push them, they knock them down a notch. That’s the hard part. You know that old line, ‘If you ain’t cheatin’, you ain’t tryin’? It’s that kind of thing.”

That seems like the kind of thing that would have had the NFL to not hire Runyan, given the kind of player he was. Indeed, the on-field disciplinary process works best if there’s an overriding sense of fairness; with Runyan at the helm, players will have to accept the “do as I say, not as I did” mandate from the new boss.

“You have to push the envelope even on a weekly basis,” Runyan said 11 years ago. Pushing the envelope for Runyan included tripping defenders -- until he injured himself doing it.

“I’d get out of position and trip people a lot, which is technically illegal,” Runyan said. “I got warned a couple times about it. Then later, I tried to do it and sprained my knee, so I stopped sticking my leg out there so much.”

He may have stopped using his leg, but Runyan wasn’t afraid to use his fist, when necessary.

“I know I punched a guy in the [crotch] once,” Runyan said. “I got kicked out of the game. It was because he pushed me over a pile. It was on a field goal. I was watching the kick. The kick was already gone. [Jerry Ball] took two hands to my face mask and pushed me over the pile. I couldn’t get up off the ground because everyone was underneath me, and I just swung at the nearest thing I saw.”

He’ll be swinging for wallets starting this fall, and it will be interesting to see whether he applies the rules strictly or whether he exercises discretion in recognition of the fact that football inherently is a rough-and-tumble profession, where some of the best players are the ones who get away with as much as they.