This past Wednesday, NFL owners approved the proposal to extend the defenseless player rule to include recipients of a crackback block. After I made this post about the new rule changes, a couple of people asked me, “What is a crackback block?”
Though there are variations, basically a crackback block is a block by an offensive player (often a wide receiver) who first heads downfield then turns back toward the middle of the field to cut down, typically, a linebacker or defensive back from the side. Defensive backs will sometimes yell, “crack” to alert the intended targets to this play.
One such play that caused quite a bit of controversy occurred in October 2008 when then Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver Hines Ward delivered a crackback block on Cincinnati Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers. Ward, who was actually playing a slot receiver position at the time, had run downfield, then cut back and laid a crushing, blindside block on Rivers which broke Rivers’ jaw, forcing him out for the season. A controversy arose when Hines was neither flagged nor fined for the hit that some deemed as unnecessary roughness/ illegal. However, the next year, the owners did pass what was often called, The Hines Ward Rule that made a blindside block illegal “if the block came from the blocker’s helmet, forearm or shoulder and lands to the head or neck area of a defender.” Which is essentially what Wednesday “new” rule does though the difference may be in the penalty and that it now includes players on defense.
photo by Peter Diana/Post Gazette 10-14-08