Thinking more about Fokou's penalty

October, 7, 2013
10/07/13
2:22
PM ET
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- In a column Sunday from LP Field about Moise Fokou's unnecessary roughness call against Alex Smith on the boundary, I said rather than launching at the quarterback, the linebacker should have pushed him.

I said it would have been preferable to shove him with an extended arm.

Fokou
Smith
It certainly seems a better alternative than leaving one’s feet.

On "The Wake Up Zone" in Nashville on Monday morning, however, Titans play-by-play man, Mike Keith, said that extending arms to offer such a shove is a penalty.

I’ve scanned the rulebook for something spelling that out, and there isn’t such a clause. I checked back with Keith, and his understanding is while it may not be spelled out, defenders generally expect to be penalized if they extend their arms to shove in such a circumstance.

Part of the trouble here is that things are too vague and not spelled out explicitly.

My overall thinking remains the same: I don’t love the call, but I’m past the point where I am surprised by it. The Titans all said about the same thing. Launching puts you in a helpless position where you may become doomed. Stay on your feet, run to him and push him out of bounds.

Perhaps I overextended by saying extend an arm to do so. So do it with your elbow(s) near your body.

Yes, it sounds silly to offer such specific advice or instruction on body position in a setting where things happen so fast. It’s simply where we are. Follow a guideline to maximize your chance not to get flagged, or give away a crucial first down plus 15 yards.

If a runner is in bounds, QB or not, he should be subject to a hit or a push. Trouble is, the league is beyond that, and unlikely to return. So defenders have to, unfairly, figure out how to make it work.

Former Titans linebacker Keith Bulluck told me his intent approaching the quarterback in similar circumstances would be to “take him out of bounds without taking him to the ground. Like run into him but hold him up some how.”

But he emphasized it’s far easier said than done considering the speed.

Here are two things from the rulebook that pertain to Fokou’s play.
Defensive players must make an effort to avoid contact. Players on defense are responsible for knowing when a runner has crossed the boundary line, except in doubtful cases where he might step on a boundary line and continue parallel with it ...

When in question about a roughness call or potentially dangerous tactics, the covering official(s) should always call unnecessary roughness.

Paul Kuharsky | email

ESPN Tennessee Titans reporter

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