For the next 12 weeks, The End Zone will be advice from the "Next Level" series in Referee Magazine. I hope you all take advantage. There is some great advice here. This is a great way to enhance your off-season training. Whether you're a grizzled veteran or a just getting started, this is information we can all use. Enjoy!
WEEK 4: HOLDING
1. Actions that constitute offensive holding include but are not limited to the following six categories:
• Tackle. A tackle as a block is most likely to occur as part of a block below the waist at the line. It is also an act of desperation by an offensive lineman badly beaten by a defender.
• Takedown. A takedown is often fairly obvious. It may momentarily look like a wrestling match. A size mismatch between blocker and rusher increases the probability of a takedown. A factor to keep in mind is that backfield pass blockers are often smaller than defensive linemen, making the need for an “equalizing” technique more probable.
• Pullover. The pullover almost always occurs on a pass play. The offensive lineman grabs his opponent at the armpits or chest plate of the shoulder pads and then pulls him over himself, making it look like the defender ran over his blocker and fell down in the process.
• Hook and resist. In order to hook an opponent, the blocker must allow his hands to get outside the frame of his body. That is usually easily discernible. For a foul to occur, that act must result in a restriction that affects the play. If the defender immediately blows through the extended arm, no holding has occurred.
• Grab and restrict. If the defender beats his blocker, the blocker may grab the defender’s jersey as he is moving away. The jersey grab can be subtle or patently obvious.
• Jerk and restrict. This type of hold begins with two hands on the opponent’s chest. After contact is made, the blocker slides his hands up under the opponent’s shoulder pads and grabs the jersey. With that firm grasp, the blocker jerks the opponent aside or moves him away from the point of attack, thus delaying his advance.
2. Defensive holding is generally limited to four types:
• Pull and shoot. That tactic used by defensive players (usually linemen) is designed to create a gap in the offensive line. The defensive lineman grabs the offensive lineman and pulls him to one side, allowing a teammate to rush through the opening and rush the quarterback or block a kick.
• Holding a pulling lineman. In order to prevent the offense from setting up the blocking in front of a screen pass or sweep, a defensive player (usually a lineman) will hold a pulling lineman. It often shows up as a shirt-grab or outright tackle.
• Holding on a chip block. That hold begins when an offensive lineman fires out at the snap and legally blocks the defensive lineman (usually but not always a nose guard) below the waist. An adjacent offensive lineman will either fire out or chip block the nose guard, trying to work his way to the second level of defense, usually a linebacker. If the defensive lineman holds the adjacent lineman, he prevents the lineman from getting to the linebacker.
• Holding an eligible receiver. A defensive end will sometimes hold the tight end, preventing the receiver from getting off the line to execute a block or get into a pass pattern. Cornerbacks in press coverage are also known to latch onto wide receivers.
3. If there is a potential offensive holding but the action occurs clearly away from the point of attack and has no (or could have no) effect on the play, offensive holding should not be called.
The runner hits the right side, makes it through the line and gains enough for a first down. But action that qualifies as holding occurs on the opposite side of the line, away from the point of attack.
Was there a rules violation? You bet. Should a flag be thrown? Yes, if officials were inclined to throw the flag for every single violation committed in the game. That, no doubt, would result in a long day for players, coaches and fans. But officials must embrace the advantage/disadvantage philosophy. Color that play gray.
When considering holding, if the offensive player’s act cannot be described using one of the six categories of holding, think twice before throwing the flag. Likewise, if the questionable block is on a player who could not reasonably make the tackle, a verbal warning is in order.
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Lance Ulrich has been a football official since 2002, and a member of SEFOA since 2009.