49ers Blog and Q&A

News, notes and reader questions about the San Francisco 49ers

August 2, 2007
Nolan lets P.I. battle simmer on back burner -- for now

Remember back in March when coach Mike Nolan thought about trying to change the current pass-interference rules? Well, he's keeping quiet for now but plans to resume the battle after the season.

As I wrote back then, Nolan thinks that the current rules on pass interference (heretofore P.I.) are too stiff, especially for something that's so subjective and can't be overruled by instant replay. As it stands now, P.I. is a spot-of-foul penalty, meaning the ball is placed where the infraction took place or on the 1-yard line if it occurred in the end zone.

It's incongruous with the rest of the rulebook, Nolan says. He doesn't think a violent face mask penalty that could result in a serious injury should be 15 yards while a ticky tacky P.I. penalty could potentially be 60 or 70 yards. Nolan's solution would be to make run-of-mill P.I. fouls 15 yards and the more flagrant ones spot-of-foul penalties.

"Everybody wants to see more offense," Nolan said. "But at the same time, it shouldn't change the winner or loser."

The subject came up today because Mike Pereira, who is in charge of the NFL's officials, is in town in part to discuss the new rule changes with the team.

I spoke with Pereira, who, by the way, is from Sacramento, about Nolan's gripe.

"From my standpoint, I'm not necessarily against Mike on this," he said. "It hurts me enough to make a five-yard mistake, but to make a 50-yard mistake? That's a killer to me."

However, Pereira didn't think the rule would change any time soon. The concern among owners is that as soon as you water down the penalty for P.I., defensive backs will grow far more aggressive and the long passing game - which is what fans love - will be curtailed.

"Now you're going to foul more, you're going to have a tendency to play more aggressively because they know it will only be 15 yards," Pereira said. "They don't want to take away the vertical game, and that's the one issue that's there."

He also said that trying to decide between a ho-hum P.I. penalty and flagrant one would be very subjective and thus quite difficult.

"But (Nolan's concept) has more support than it's ever had before," Pereira said. "So maybe if that support continues to build, in some point in time it might change."

-- Matthew Barrows


Matt was born in Blacksburg, Va., and attended the University of Virginia. He graduated in 1995, went to Northwestern for a journalism degree a year later, and got his first job at a South Carolina daily in 1997. He joined The Bee as a Metro reporter in 1999 and started covering the 49ers in 2003. His favorite player of all time is Darrell Green.


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