You all know Mike Pereira, the former NFL vice president of officiating, who now works as a rules analyst for Fox Sports. You all love Mike Pereira, of course. He is, at least in my estimation, perhaps the best in the business when it comes to correctly making calls and, more importantly, deciphering and parsing the rules language, which gets changes annually.
Wouldn’t you know it, 2016 happens to be another year. That also happens to mean that with the new year comes yet another series of minor adjustments to the rule book, whether it is futilely attempting to clarify language, introducing new legislation in the name of player safety, or officially codifying something that was an ‘unofficial rule’ that was exposed through a loophole the prior season.
The latter tends to be the league’s favorite. It seems like almost every offseason something happens during the year that exposes a silly lapse in the rulebook that everybody is surprised is not already there or is there for no reason. The codifying rule this year just so happens to pertain to the Pittsburgh Steelers.
As Pereira noted on Twitter, the new language in one section of the rule book pertains to eligible personnel on the field in the event of an injury. He writes, “the head coach may enter the field to check on an injured player but no assistant coach may enter the field”.
He then concluded his Tweet exactly the way everybody who watched the Wildcard game between the Steelers and Bengals reacted in their heads: “wonder where that came from??”
It came, of course, from the events of the final moments of that game, after Bengals linebacker Vontaze Burfict struck Steelers wide receiver Antonio Brown in the helmet as he was sprawled in an attempt to reel in an errant pass. He lay immobile on the field for some time, ultimately suffering a concussion.
Among the personnel that entered the field of play after this incident was Steelers outside linebackers coach Joey Porter, who at one point found himself in the midst of a number of Bengals players, with Adam Jones initiating contact and drawing a penalty on top of Burfict’s penalty that advanced the ball a combined 30 yards and set up the game-winning field goal.
It was a sort of unwritten rule that only head coaches were permitted to enter the field following an injury, but now it is being made clear in the rule book that it is the case. There is the Mel Blount Rule, and the Hines Ward Rule, as well as the Rooney Rule—perhaps even one or two more that I am forgetting—but evidently we now have the Joey Porter Rule as well.
Of course, these aforementioned rules that actually apply to on-field conduct were all legislating actions that were previously perfectly legal, and there was nothing against the rules of what Porter did last year, which is why he was not penalized for it. Should it happen again, however, evidently there will be some sort of penalty involved.