ESPN’s Jason Witten Rips NFL’s New “Left-Wing” Roughing the Passer Approach

The "Monday Night Football" commentator said the league has "just gone too far with that rule."

OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
OAKLAND, CA - DECEMBER 17: Jason Witten #82 of the Dallas Cowboys looks on during the game against the Oakland Raiders at Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum on December 17, 2017 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Lachlan Cunningham/Getty Images)
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By Evan Bleier / September 25, 2018 9:17 am

In just his third regular-season game in the booth for Monday Night Football,  Jason Witten ignited some controversy by critiquing the league’s new approach to roughing-the-passer penalties as “left wing.”

During the game between the Bucs and Steelers Monday night, the former Dallas Cowboys tight end let loose after four roughing penalties drew flags during the contest — tied for most in the league in one game since 2001, according to ESPN.

“They’ve just gone too far with that rule,” Witten said. “I knew they wanted to make it about the health and safety, and protecting these quarterbacks, but it just seems like we went a little bit to the left wing on that, you know? Not only are the players frustrated, but the coaches. They don’t know how to coach this. That’s when you have a challenge with this rule.”

Following the comment by Witten, Conor Orr of SI reached out to ESPN for their reaction and was told Witten’s remark “had nothing to do with politics.”

Witten’s comment notwithstanding, the NFL appears to be aware there is an issue with the rash of penalties and may soon ask officials to start applying the roughing-the-passer penalties differently during games.

Members of the league’s competition committee are meeting this week and a person close to the process said the roughing penalties could be called differently going forward, according to Mark Maske of the Washington Post.

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