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#1
Old 11-03-2016, 03:35 AM
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American football: the clipping penalty

Growing up a football (American football) fan in the 60s and 70s, one of the penalties called was "clipping." I haven't seen that called in years; I'm guessing it was replaced by "illegal block in the back." When did the clipping penalty go out of fashion?
#2
Old 11-03-2016, 11:21 AM
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Clipping is still in the rule book. I think you don't see it as often as it requires the hit to be below the waist and generally in the open field. Most players aren't diving around in that situation, the usual hit is high as both are standing, hence block in the back, not clipping. Plus, it is a pretty dangerous open field play and can ruin a career, something the NFL will often frown upon.

Block in the back is contact from behind and above the waist and carries a 10 yard penalty. (Rule 12, Section 1, Article 3(b))

Clipping is a Personal Foul, a block from behind that is below the waist, that carries 15 yards. (Rule 12, Section 2, Article 1)

You are allowed to clip in what the NFL calls close line play, essentially line of scrimmage blocking between the tackles, but you must hit above the knee.

http://static.nfl.com/static/content/public/image/rulebook/pdfs/15_2013_Player_Conduct.pdf
#3
Old 11-07-2016, 01:33 PM
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A similar and legal technique is the cut block done by offensive linemen to take down a defender at the knees. However, an attempt to do a cut block on a defender already engaged with an offensive player is called a chop block and is illegal.

Sometimes the difference between a legitimate technique and a penalty is a slight variation on how it's done, other times it depends on the circumstances in which you do it.
#4
Old 11-07-2016, 02:57 PM
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As far as I can tell, they split "clipping" into "clipping" and "Illegal block in the back" sometime in the 1990s.

I do remember that when I played in high school (up through 1989), an illegal block in the back on say... a punt return was definitely flagged as clipping, when now it would be an illegal block in the back.

Last edited by bump; 11-07-2016 at 02:58 PM.
#5
Old 11-16-2016, 08:43 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bump View Post
As far as I can tell, they split "clipping" into "clipping" and "Illegal block in the back" sometime in the 1990s.
NFHS (High school) changed the rule in 2002, it looks like. NCAA and NFL changed sometime in the 90s, but I can't find an exact date with my materials.
#6
Old 11-16-2016, 08:57 PM
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I'd like to know why "illegal block in the back" happens on almost every return these days. Can't coaches simply tell their players to stop doing that? It's often a very significant penalty, negating good long returns, but happens with amazing frequency. And, unlike pass interference, it doesn't seem like something that's a fine line that unintentionally gets crossed.
#7
Old 11-16-2016, 09:40 PM
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Players are focused on their blocking assignment, and the rapid change of direction on a kick return means there are many opportunities to find yourself behind the player you intend to block. We officials miss the call often enough that the risk reward for making the block is probably high enough that it outweighs not making the block and letting your return man get tackled. But many times, players just overcommit to their blocking assignment and find they can't let up.
#8
Old 11-17-2016, 07:25 AM
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I saw a clipping called this weekend. Bears-bucs or Cowboys-Steelers I think.
#9
Old 11-17-2016, 10:17 AM
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I saw one the weekend before last. Don't remember the game, looked like the guy slipped going for a block higher up.
#10
Old 11-17-2016, 10:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I'd like to know why "illegal block in the back" happens on almost every return these days. Can't coaches simply tell their players to stop doing that?
John Madden tells the (likely apocryphal) story about when he was coaching the Raiders, and they were being penalized repeatedly for either "block in the back" or clipping (it being the '70s, it was probably the latter).

In an effort to cut down on these, he instructed his players, "if you can read the name on the back of the other guy's jersey, don't block him!" When that did nothing to change the number of penalties, he realized the error of his instructions, and changed it to, "if you can see the name on the back of the other guy's jersey, don't block him!"

I suspect that, like holding on offensive plays, blocks in the back happen on every single punt return (and always has), and it's a matter of whether the officials see it, and whether they've been instructed to make enforcement of that rule a particular focus.

Last edited by kenobi 65; 11-17-2016 at 10:22 AM.
#11
Old 11-17-2016, 02:34 PM
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Originally Posted by kidchameleon View Post
I saw a clipping called this weekend. Bears-bucs or Cowboys-Steelers I think.
There was a clipping call in the Seahawks-Patriots game.
#12
Old 11-17-2016, 02:58 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Procrustus View Post
I'd like to know why "illegal block in the back" happens on almost every return these days. Can't coaches simply tell their players to stop doing that? It's often a very significant penalty, negating good long returns, but happens with amazing frequency. And, unlike pass interference, it doesn't seem like something that's a fine line that unintentionally gets crossed.
You tend to notice it on long returns because the penalty is what sets up the long return. Coaches usually only get mad if it's a blatantly dumb play or it happens well away from the action.
#13
Old 11-19-2016, 09:56 AM
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Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
There was a clipping call in the Seahawks-Patriots game.
That was it.
#14
Old 11-19-2016, 10:45 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mister Rik View Post
There was a clipping call in the Seahawks-Patriots game.
Quote:
Originally Posted by kidchameleon View Post
That was it.
I saw that too but didn't recall it before. That one was pretty blatant.
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