By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston
BOSTON (CBS) — The Patriots raised eyebrows during the 2016 season when they busted out the field goal leap, an eye-popping, relatively new trick play that had rarely been attempted by other teams in recent years. In Week 13 against the Baltimore Ravens, linebacker Shea McClellin ran and leaped over the center to block a field goal attempt by Ravens kicker Justin Tucker in the first quarter of the Patriots’ 30-23 win.
McClellin’s block against the Ravens was perfectly timed and was almost successful again when he attempted to block an extra point in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons. He got flagged on the play for a somewhat questionable illegal formation call – and that might be the last time you ever see the play attempted.
According to a Wednesday report by Mark Maske of the Washington Post, representatives from the NFL Players Association met with the NFL’s competition committee at the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, where they argued in favor of banning players from leaping over the line of scrimmage on kick attempts. Per current rules, a clean jump over the center with no contact is legal. The competition committee had previously said it planned to review the play in the offseason.
NFLPA President Eric Winston’s main argument was that it’s a dangerous play for everyone involved.
“If you jump over the center, the jumper is in a really bad spot. He can land on his head,” said Winston. “I think the guys that are getting jumped over are going to end up getting hurt, with those guys landing on them. So I’ll be very interested to see what they’ll do there. I think something probably needs to be done.”
Winston has a point. Leaping over a player who has his head down has the potential to cause serious injuries. It’s not attempted very often in the first place, and if successful would result in keeping at most three points off the board for the opponent. The play is exciting to watch when it happens, but not necessarily worth the risk of a potential collision causing major injuries to players’ heads, knees, legs, or feet.
It’s just curious that the NFLPA didn’t decide to act on the leaping play until the Patriots were the ones making the headlines for doing it. The play goes back to as early as 2012, when then-Seattle Seahawks linebacker Bruce Irvin executed a successful leap over the center but couldn’t make the block. Kam Chancellor did it on consecutive plays in 2013. And you may remember Jamie Collins doing it successfully against the Colts during the 2015 season.
Apparently, it was OK for the Seahawks to try the play multiple times, but Collins and then McClellin doing it for the Patriots was where the league finally drew the line.
It sounds as if the play will be taken out of the game for the 2017 season, which is unfortunate for the entertainment value of special teams plays in general. Ultimately, it’s understandable that the NFLPA would want to protect its players from a play that really can’t be defended without putting one’s head and neck in harm’s way. But it’s also a typical NFL move to wait until the Patriots do something well to take action on it.
Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.