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SoIndRef

Defenseless Player

Question

As an official, this can be difficult, especially on the receiver.

We had a scenario where the receiver caught a pass and was immediately hit.  He did not appear to have time to see the hit coming and laid on the ground afterwards with an apparent injury.

How should we view those hits?  It looks especially bad when the kid gets hurt, but at the same time it appears to be a good football play.

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In that situation it's a foul if targeting is involved or any other personal foul (i.e. facemask, tripping). The blindside block rule wouldn't apply to them.

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We discussed it at our association meeting and it was pretty universal that the hit we saw was legal.  We used this chart from the case book to come to that conclusion:

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When judging a play, I think we always have to go back to the definition of the play in question. So the definition of a defenseless player is below. If you feel your play meets one of the criteria listed, then it's a flag. Be prepared and arm yourself with key phrases when having to discuss the penalty with the coach (usually the white hat). I.E. "coach he is receiver who is considered a defenseless because he was in a position that is especially vulnerable to injury and had not had time to clearly become a runner" Kinda wordy, but can't be argued. (PS I'm not saying that is the case with your play, since I have not seen it). 

Rule: 2-32-16

ART. 16 . . . A defenseless player is a player who, because of his physical position and focus of concentration, is especially vulnerable to injury. A player who initiates contact against a defenseless player is responsible for making legal contact. When in question, a player is defenseless. 
Examples of defenseless players include, but are not limited to: 
a. A passer; 
b. A receiver attempting to catch a pass who has not had time to clearly become a runner;
c. The intended receiver of a pass in the action during and immediately following an interception or potential interception;
 
d. A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped; 
e. A kickoff or punt returner attempting to catch or recover a kick, or one who has completed a catch or recovery and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner; 
f. A player on the ground including a runner who has obviously given himself up and is sliding feet-first; 
g. A player obviously out of the play or not in the immediate vicinity of the runner; and 
h. A player who receives a blindside block with forceful contact not initiated with open hands.

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