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Are Quarterbacks Overprotected In The NFL?

Kamille Simmons |
September 23, 2010 | 7:33 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

Are quarterbacks overprotected in the NFL?

That’s the question around the league after a controversial call against Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs on Sunday that led to a Bengals field goal and an eventual 15-10 win for Cincinnati.

Suggs was penalized for roughing the passer when he made a hit on Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer during an attempted sack. The call against Baltimore’s linebacker took place with about five and a half minutes left in the fourth quarter of a 10-9 game. It cost the Ravens 15 yards and set up Cincinnati’s go-ahead field goal.

Ray Lewis, another Baltimore linebacker who was penalized in the third quarter for “tripping” Palmer, was adamant that the call against Suggs was the cause of the now 1-1 Ravens' loss.

Did the penalty really affect the outcome of the game? Probably not, especially considering the Ravens had just given up 60 yards on a punt return.

In any case, the only ones who really care about the Ravens losing the game are the Ravens.

The real issue here is that Suggs' sack looked (to everyone but Gene Steratore) like a good hit.

Palmer wasn’t hit anywhere near his lower leg, he wasn’t hit after he released the ball and there were no helmets involved.

Because of the apparent legality of the tackle, the call has sparked conversation about whether quarterbacks in the NFL are overprotected.

Suggs was in the middle of a similar controversy last season when he and another linebacker were flagged for two roughing-the-passer penalties that led to two touchdowns in a game against the Patriots. He made his opinion on the matter clear at the time, saying the NFL will do all it can to protect the quarterbacks who pay their bills.

He has a point.

Ever since Tom Brady, the NFL’s golden boy, had to have season-ending knee surgery when he took a low hit in New England’s season opener in 2008, the league has gone to great lengths to protect its poster children.

The year after Brady’s season on the sideline, the NFL created “the Tom Brady rule,” which makes it illegal for defenders knocked to the ground to lunge at a quarterback and make contact below the belt.

Three of the 22 roughing-the-passer calls made in the first four weeks that season were called on players defending against Brady.

So, you can’t hit quarterbacks when you’re on the ground; you can’t hit them helmet-to-helmet; you can’t hit them after they’ve released the ball. Can you ever hit an NFL QB without getting a flag thrown?

Well, obviously you can. 

Kevin Kolb, Jake Delhomme, Matthew Stafford and Dennis Dixon are among the quarterbacks who have already been injured this season.

All this talk about the NFL overprotecting the quarterback to keep the money train rolling appears to be wrong then. The league, after all, has been amending the rule book for years in an effort to prevent injuries for all players -- still, dozens of players get hurt every season.

With injuries constantly plaguing the NFL, particularly this season, complaints from Suggs, Lewis and other defenders will continue to fall on deaf ears.

At this point, everyone could use a little more protection.

To reach writer Kamille Simmons, click here.

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