Proposals would upgrade penalties for hits to the quarterback’s head or neck, crack down on spearing on any opponent, and give coaches another potential challenge

TORONTO (March 22, 2019) – The Canadian Football League’s (CFL) Rules Committee is looking to do even more to protect the quarterback.

“There is a real focus here on player safety in general and the health of quarterbacks in particular,” said Darren Hackwood, the league’s Senior Director of Officiating, as the committee wrapped up its annual meetings.

To further protect quarterbacks, the committee is proposing:

  • The ability for the Command Centre to upgrade a 15-yard roughing the passer penalty to a 25-yard penalty for a direct blow to the quarterback’s head or neck with the helmet when that player has a clear view to the quarterback, and there are no mitigating circumstances such as a quarterback ducking his head.
  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist Referees with called and non-called roughing the passer penalties including instances where an obvious roughing the passer penalty was not called because a referee’s view was blocked.
  • Whistling a play dead anytime a quarterback carrying the ball gives himself up by sliding with any part of his body. Currently, a quarterback can only “give himself up” by sliding feet-first.

The Committee also recommends:

  • Coaches should be entitled to a second challenge if their first is successful, giving them a potential maximum of two per game instead of just one.
  • A 10-yard objectionable conduct penalty be assessed for faking or embellishing contact, otherwise known as diving.
  • Spearing on any player be upgraded to a 25-yard penalty by the Command Centre when a blow is delivered with the top of the defender’s helmet and he has a clear view to the opponent and there are not mitigating circumstances such as the opponent ducking his head.
  • If a player receives two 25-yard penalties in the same game, he will be disqualified from that game.
  • A kicked or thrown football remain a live ball instead of becoming a dead ball when it touches a goal-post ribbon.

The CFL Rules Committee is made up of head coaches, general managers, team presidents, league officials and a representative of the CFL Players’ Association.

Its recommendations now go the CFL Board of Governors which will make its decision later this Spring.

To increase protection for all players, the rules committee is also recommending:

  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials in calling penalties when the injury spotter has intervened in a player safety situation.
  • Allowing the Command Centre to assist on-field officials with called and non-called roughing the kicker penalties.
  • Removing the stipulation that allows a defender to contact a kicker’s plant leg without penalty if the defender has touched the ball prior to contact.
  • Clarifying the definition of spearing to be when a player uses the top of their helmet as the primary point of contact to deliver a blow to an opponent.
  • Making the use of three or more wedge blockers on kicking plays illegal.
  • Making it illegal for a defensive player to deliver a forcible blow to the long snapper while the snapper’s head is down and he is in a vulnerable position and unable to protect himself.

“I want to thank all members of the Rules Committee for working hard and working together,” said Randy Ambrosie, Commissioner of the CFL.

“Promoting player health and safety and making our game better and fairer is a responsibility we all share. I know our Governors are looking forward to voting on these recommendations.”

Training camps open on May 19 and the 2019 season begins on June 13 when the Saskatchewan Roughriders face off against the Hamilton Tiger-Cats. Fans can stay up to date on all the non-stop action at, follow the 2019 season from around the world, and join us at a game. The 107th Grey Cup presented by Shaw will be played at McMahon Stadium in Calgary on Sunday, November 24.

Lucas Barrett

Manager, Communications & Public Affairs, Canadian Football League

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