Dean Blandino, NFL vice president of officiating, is here to help. He spoke with Andrew Siciliano on Thursday on our television counterpart, "Around The League Live," with the details.
"You know, Coach Harbaugh wanted to understand what the rules were going to be in terms of hitting the quarterback," Blandino said. "And like we've been saying all along throughout the offseason, we've tried to clarify what the protections are in the read-option scheme or the normal drop-back passer. On passing posture, I think that's something we tried to clarify with all the coaches, and so the players understand and the coaches understand where they can hit the quarterback based on his posture."
Siciliano asked if a defender can hit a quarterback like San Francisco's Colin Kaepernick right after he hands off to a running back.
"When the quarterback puts the ball in the running back's belly, the referee doesn't know who has the football, the defender doesn't know who has the football, so if it's a bang-bang split second, then yes, he can hit the quarterback," Blandino said.
"But if the quarterback has clearly handed off the football, and he's standing still, or fading backwards, he cannot be unnecessarily contacted, and that doesn't matter if it's a read-option quarterback or a classic drop-back quarterback. If they're standing still or fading backward after the ball has left their hand, they cannot be unnecessarily contacted."
It's not like Clay Matthews' proposed strategy is unique. The vulnerability of the quarterback always has been cited as the reason why "option" football couldn't work at the NFL level. It certainly worked last year, and Kaepernick was especially good at avoiding big hits.
Harbaugh wins again.