NFHS football changes include intentional grounding, chop block interpretation

20-yard line on football field

20-yard line on football field

Inti St Clair / Getty Images/Tetra images RF

The National Federation of State High School Associations announced rule changes and revisions for 2022 football season on Thursday, headlined by changes to the intentional grounding rules and chop blocks.

The seven rule changes and adjustments, which are being implemented mainly with the intent of reducing the risk of injury to players, were decided by the NFHS football rules committee and approved in January.

First, a new rule now permits a player to purposefully throw an incomplete pass forward without warranting an intentional grounding penalty provided the passer is outside of the pocket and the pass reaches the neutral zone or an extension of the neutral zone beyond the sideline.

“The question (with this rule) has always been, ‘if the defense makes a good play, are we bailing out the offense by letting the quarterback throw the ball away?’” Richard McWhirter, the Chair of the NFHS Football Rules Committee and Assistant Executive Director of the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association, said in a press release. “This year, I think the committee felt the wellbeing of the passers and not subjecting them to extra hits was worth changing the rule.”

Another change to a previous rule has altered the definition of a chop block. Now a chop block will be defined as “a combination block by two or more teammates against an opponent other than the runner, with or without delay, where one of the blocks is below the waist and one of the blocks is above the waist.”

Previously, the defensive player’s knee was the determining spot for high and low components of a chop block.

“This is going to strengthen the rule and it’s also going to help the game officials,” McWhirter said. “I think they’re going to be able to enforce this rule better than they have in the past because determining ‘below the knee’ and ‘above the knee’ is tough to do. I think it’s really going to improve the game.”

Other rules implemented or changed by the NFHS committee include allowing players to wear the number zero, allowing state associations to extend sideline team boxes as long as both teams are allowed to use the same dimensions, and that any game official may order that the ball be changed between downs.

There were also changes made to play clock procedures. Now when any foul is committed in the final two minutes of either half, the offended team will automatically have the option to start the game clock on the snap. Previously the rule required the offended team to accept the penalty before controlling the game clock.

Also, the committee made exceptions to a rule which clarifies the necessary conditions for an abbreviated 25-second play clock after a stoppage in play. It states that a 40-second play clock will be implemented following a foul committed by only the defensive team.

“With this year’s rules changes, the committee once again showed its focus on minimizing risk in high school football,” said Bob Colgate, NFHS Director of Sports and Sports Medicine and liaison to the NFHS Football Rules Committee in a press release. “By expanding the parameters for a legal forward pass and redefining the chop block so it can be more easily officiated by game officials, the committee has taken measures to mitigate two potentially risky situations within the game.”; @AldamWill