Harbaugh: Hits on running QBs are 'gray area'

Three and Out: Will officials protect read-option QBs?

Harbaugh: Hits on running QBs are 'gray area'
September 4, 2013, 1:30 pm
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Jim Harbaugh plans to talk with the referees Sunday to clarify the rules on hitting a running quarterback. (USA TODAY IMAGES)

SANTA CLARA -- Green Bay outside linebacker Clay Matthews knows exactly how he believes the rule will be interpreted when it comes to hitting quarterback running the read option.

"It looks as if as long as that quarterback is carrying out that fake, he loses his right as a pocket passer and rules that govern that," Matthews said Wednesday in a conference call with the Bay Area media.

"We'll see the hits that are legal and what's not legal, but we think our game plan fits within the scheme of the officials and what we want to do."

It was Colin Kaepernick who supplied the hits against the Packers defense in an NFC playoff game in January when he rushed for 181 yards and two touchdowns in a 45-31 victory over Green Bay.

But, it's clear, the Packers want to get as many legal hits on Kaepernick as possible to potentially slow him down.

[RELATED: Packers scramble to plan for Kaepernick's running]

Meanwhile, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh said he has engaged the NFL in discussions about what should and should not be legal when it comes to hits on the quarterback. Harbaugh said he will speak to the game officials prior to Sunday's game, too. But he doesn't expect clarity on the exact rules until later in the season.

"Before he's declared to being a runner, he should be afforded the protection that all quarterbacks are afforded until he declares and gets out of the pocket and starts running with the ball or running an option or carrying out a bootleg and attempting to run or pass when he's outside of the pocket," Harbaugh said. "But while he's in the pocket, I believe he's a quarterback until he declares that he's a runner."

On Monday, Matthews appeared on the "Mike and Mike" ESPN radio show and spoke about forcing teams to abandon the read option.

"You do have to take your shots on the quarterback, and obviously they’re too important to their offense," he said. "If that means (coaches) pull them out of that type of offense and make them run a traditional, drop-back, pocket-style offense, I think that’s exactly what we’re going for. So you want to put hits as early and often on the quarterback and make them uncomfortable.”

Harbaugh compared some of the comments he's heard to what surfaced after the 2011 season when then-New Orleans Saints defensive coordinator Gregg Williams targeted several 49ers players to injure in a talk to his team before their NFC playoff game.

"You're hearing a lot of tough talk right now," Harbaugh said. "You're hearing some intimidating type of talk -- kind of things we were hearing a couple years ago.

"(It) sounds a lot like targeting a specific player. You definitely start to wonder. A man usually doesn't tell you his bad intentions. You know what's being said publicly, not what's being said privately. I hope their intent is not going to be anything that's not within the rules."

And what does Kaepernick think about all this?

"I'm not worried about that," he said. "It's football. You're going to get hit."