Barr's Rodgers hit would be illegal, per new rule

"It's a bang-bang play. It can happen in any game."

Anthony Barr stopped by NFL Network in mid-June and, in the course of a sit-down with NFL.com, explained what happened on the Sunday that essentially sunk Green Bay's season.

As any linebacker would, Barr rushed the quarterback -- All-Pro Aaron Rodgers, in this instance -- and hit him just as he released the ball. It was a textbook play that ended in injury because of the way Barr drove Rodgers into the ground, shoulder-first, breaking Rodgers' collarbone.

"I hit Jameis Winston the same way a couple weeks prior and nobody made a sound about it," Barr told NFL.com in June. "If he doesn't get injured, I don't think anybody complains about it."

They'll complain about it this season after the league said Barr's hit would have resulted in a penalty under a new measure implemented to focus on player safety, per a report from the Minneapolis Star Tribune's Ben Goessling. NFL official Pete Morelli reportedly explained in a video that will be shown to teams that there is a new determination of a defenseless quarterback based on whether he sets up to throw or continues rolling outside of the pocket with a chance to scramble.

"Players will have to kind of roll to the side, when they make that tackle, instead of plopping down on them," Morelli said, per Goessling. "So yeah, Aaron Rodgers would be a foul this year. As long as he's out of the pocket, established and all that. If he's running, that's not going to be the same."

The official wording, per Goessling, is to keep passers "in a defenseless posture" from suffering injuries (such as broken collarbones) caused by defenders landing on top of them with all of or most of his body weight.

In looking at the tape from the Rodgers play, it's clear he is set up to throw (while also running laterally to his right) before releasing under pressure. Barr hits him on a play that has happened countless times in football, but lands on top of Rodgers due to the angle of contact and his own momentum. The last detail is enough for one to consider how challenging it will be for players moving at incredible speeds to control how their weight lands on anyone or anything.

"It's difficult. You know, it's very difficult," Barr said Thursday, per the St. Paul Pioneer Press. "You're playing fast, trying to make a play on the ball. It's going to be tough. It will be interesting to see how that's officiated and how it's called."

Rodgers wasn't becoming a defined runner in this new wrinkle to defining football moves and who is/isn't a runner, still keeping his eyes downfield before throwing. This makes sense when we're trying to marry pictures with words.

But there seems to be a looming gray area in defining who is and isn't set up to throw. Rodgers makes a living fading to his left and right at an angle very similar to this while under pressure. He takes his share of hits for it. But establishing a standard on this rule related to body language at a high rate of speed will be incredibly difficult. And that doesn't include the more mobile-friendly quarterbacks, such as Russell Wilson, Deshaun Watson or Carson Wentz.

"I'm sure there will be some debate from the players, from the coaches, from the officials as to who's right and who's wrong," Barr said. "But we got to try our best as players to play within the rules."

It's been quite clear for some time player safety -- especially quarterback safety -- is paramount to the league, and for good reason: They're the face (and often, lynchpins) of offenses across the league. The Packers' struggle without Rodgers serves as enough of an example.

This new rule, or point of emphasis, will add another layer to what is becoming a rather thick cake.