Key LHSAA football rule changes designed to enhance player safety

The one-year experiment that allowed the LHSAA to use the “tackle box” rule available to NCAA football teams is over. However, two other rule changes designed to enhance player safety do go into effect this fall.
The “tackle box” rule allowed a quarterback to roll out toward the sidelines and throw the ball out of bounds without an intentional grounding penalty being called. Under NFHS (National Federation of High School Associations) rules, those plays will now be considered intentional grounding.
“The experimental pocket or tackle box rule was not renewed or adopted by the NFHS but two other changes were,” Baton Rouge Area Football Officials Association Assignment Secretary Marlon Harrison said. “The most devastating hits, the ones that make people go ooh and ahh, are also the most dangerous because the player who gets hit doesn’t see it coming. Those hits usually happen on special teams, turnovers or when there’s a reversal of field.”
Harrison said a clarification on the defenseless player rule will have LHSAA officials looking to determine whether the player made contact with his arms extended or with a helmet or shoulder pads. Contact with arms extended will be considered a legal hit, those with a helmet or shoulder will be judged illegal.
Another change is designed to entice teams not to opt for another kick when the ball is booted out of bounds on kickoffs. On kickoffs, there are three options: access a 5-yard penalty and force another kickoff, put the ball in play 25 yards beyond the previous spot or decline the penalty and put the ball in ball at the out of bounds spot.
On punts, Harrison said the receiving team would have the option of tacking a penalty against the kicking team onto the return rather than forcing a second punt.

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