ESPN Wisconsin

Perfect form, and yet a penalty?

Sep 22, 2011 -- 4:10pm

GREEN BAY – Desmond Bishop is pretty sure he knows what hits on opposing quarterbacks are legal and which ones aren’t, despite getting flagged for a highly questionable roughing-the-passer penalty against Cam Newton last week.

The way the Green Bay Packers inside linebacker figures it, the fact that he hasn’t been fined by the NFL for the hit, which came on the Carolina Panthers’ second possession, is proof that he should not have been flagged. The NFL does not confirm player fines until Fridays, but players usually are notified via a letter delivered by FedEx on Wednesday or Thursday. Bishop said he had not been notified.

Mike McCarthy is even more confident that there was nothing wrong with what Bishop did. In a film session Thursday, the coach singled out Bishop’s hit on Newton as exhibiting perfect form.

“I’ll just say this: Bishop’s hit on Cam Newton in the game, that’s the highlight tape that we showed for our tackling drill today. That’s exactly how you’re supposed to tackle the offensive ball carrier,” McCarthy said after practice. “So I understand there’s judgment involved in that call, and that’s fine, but based on my judgment, that is a classic example of a perfect tackle.”

On the play, Bishop came through with a blitz and hit Newton in the midsection, leading with his right shoulder – not his helmet – and taking Newton to the ground. According to the NFL rule book, a roughing-the-passer penalty results from a defender hitting the quarterback in the head, in the knees, after taking more than one step following the ball's release or "stuffing" the quarterback into the ground.

“I think (the official) said you can’t lift him up or something. I didn’t purposely,” Bishop said. “If I thought it was illegal, I wouldn’t have done it.”

Of course, Newton had already released the ball, overthrowing his intended receiver, tight end Jeremy Shockey – which is where the gray area of the call comes in. Bishop later had a 13-yard sack of Newton on third-and-3 that was deemed legal.

“It’s unbelievable. I don’t get it,” defensive lineman B.J. Raji said. “I had a few opportunities to hit Cam, and if I’m not sure, I’m just going to pull up. What’s the point? If he doesn’t have the ball, I’m not going to hit him. It’s not worth it. If he has the ball or it’s in his hand when I’m hitting him, then I’m going to hit him. But if the ball’s out of his hand – even if it’s just out of his hand and I still have (time), I’m not going to. It’s just not worth it.”

While Bishop said that he won’t change the way he plays, he did joke that “maybe you can do something else, like drop-kick them down,” a la Bobby Boucher in The Waterboy.

“I think it’s, when the quarterback has the ball, he’s live and you can do whatever. Once he throws the ball, they tighten up on the rules,” Bishop said. “It’s unfortunate because it happens so quick. You have to play it the same, because he could pump fake and keep it, and if you’re letting off, you miss the sack. There’s a little bit of gray area. they should clean it up.

Raji said he watched the Sunday night game between Atlanta and Philadelphia and saw ex-teammate Cullen Jenkins get away with a helmet-to-helmet hit on Atlanta quarterback Matt Ryan that didn’t draw a flag but later drew a fine. He also saw the Falcons’ John Abraham hold Eagles backup quarterback Mike Kafka up after a hit and still get flagged.

“With a fine, at least if it’s nothing blatant, there’s an opportunity you can appeal. A penalty, you can’t really appeal that,” Raji said. “My rookie year, I got a facemask on (Minnesota running back) Adrian Peterson, and it was 15 yards, even though it was incidental. I was able to get some of my money back from the fine after the looked at the film. But now, I’m more concerned about the penalty.”

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