Good news, Lions! Ex-ref chief wants new P.I. rules

Justin Rogers
The Detroit News

Houston — Mike Pereira admits no one is seeking his input.

But if the former NFL vice president of officiating and current Fox analyst had his way, he knows exactly which rule he would alter.

“If you ask me my opinion, it’s not going to change because nobody on the competition committee agrees with me, but I think the defensive pass-interference penalty needs to change,” Pereira said during the Super Bowl. “It’s too punitive. You have a pull of a jersey and you get 45 or 50 yards on the penalty. You put way too much pressure on the official when it’s the hardest call that has to be made on the field.”

The Lions know just how punitive the infraction can be. In an early season game against the Green Bay Packers, cornerback Nevin Lawson was hit with a 66-yard pass interference call, the longest penalty on record. On the next play, the Packers found the end zone, jumping out to a 21-3 lead.

The next week, Lawson told reporters the league acknowledged to the team that the flag shouldn’t have been thrown. Pereira said that wasn’t uncommon from his time in the league office.

“I sat through too many reviews in my office in New York when you’d look at a pass interference that was called 45 yards down field and go, “Ah, that shouldn’t have been interference. It was a bad call,’” Pereira said. “Bad call! 45 yards!”

Pereira believes the NFL should adopt something similar to the college ruling, which caps defensive pass interference at 15 yards. The common criticism is that defensive backs will intentionally interfere with receivers to prevent big gains, but Pereira scoffs at that possibility.

“They’d say if you do that to the rule, they’re going to tackle the receivers,” Pereira said. “I’m going to go, ‘Wait, can we bring in some video of college football? Have you ever watched football on Saturday?’ If you’re close enough to commit pass interference, you try to make the play.”

The league, via the competition committee, typically announces new rules and adjustments in March. Changes to pass interference aren’t expected to be discussed.