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NFL Notes: Whitner’s hit on Thomas ruled legal

Mon., Jan. 16, 2012, midnight

The helmet-to-helmet hit by San Francisco safety Donte Whitner that sent Saints running back Pierre Thomas to the locker room early in Saturday’s NFC playoff game has been deemed a legal one.

Whitner was not penalized because the tackle was not against a defenseless player. Helmet-to-helmet hits are banned against defenseless players in eight categories, and a runner is not one of those categories. Thomas was considered a runner because he’d made a catch, turned and made a “football move” before being hit.

The eight categories were incorporated into one new rule last March, and a new rule extended the protection for a receiver who has completed a catch until he has had time to protect himself or has clearly become a runner. Thomas had become a runner.

The eight defenseless player categories are:

(1) A player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;

(2) A receiver attempting to catch a pass; or who has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself or has not clearly become a runner. If the receiver/runner is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact of an opponent, he is no longer a defenseless player;

(3) A runner already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;

(4) A kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air;

(5) A player on the ground at the end of a play;

(6) A kicker/punter during the kick or during the return;

(7) A quarterback at any time after a change of possession, and

(8) A player who receives a “blindside” block when the blocker is moving toward his own end zone and approaches the opponent from behind or from the side.

Falcons hire Koetter as offensive coordinator

Completing an unusual swap of offensive coordinators, the Falcons hired Dirk Koetter from Jacksonville to replace Mike Mularkey only four days after the Jaguars introduced Mularkey as their new coach.

The Falcons hired Koetter despite the Jaguars ranking last in the league in total offense and yards passing in 2011. Koetter’s offense ranked 29th with its average of 15.2 points per game.

Goodell, NFL consider full-time officials

Aiming to ensure NFL rules are enforced the same way from game to game, the league will consider making about 10 officials full-time employees next season.

As of now, all game officials are part-time employees.

Responding to a question about consistency in officiating while speaking to a group of fans in Baltimore before Sunday’s playoff game between the Ravens and Houston Texans, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said the proposal would bring a group of officials to the league offices in New York to help review game films and evaluate the calls.

They then would be spread out among the crews at games.

“Consistency is exactly what every club wants, and I think every fan wants. You want consistency in the way rules are applied,” Goodell said. “We are contemplating this offseason taking some of those officials from the field who are now part time – they have other jobs – and making a certain number of them, let’s say 10, full time.”

Packers OC Philbin back after son’s funeral

Offensive coordinator Joe Philbin rejoined the Green Bay Packers for Sunday’s divisional playoff loss to the New York Giants in Green Bay, Wis., just two days after the funeral for his 21-year-old son Michael. His son’s body was recovered from an icy river in Oshkosh, Wis., on Jan. 8.


 

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