Thursday’s exhibition game between the Washington Redskins and Cincinnati Bengals at FedExField served as a harrowing reminder of just how different the NFL’s new rules on pass interference stands to make the game.
Among three extremely questionable offensive pass interference calls was one on the Bengals’ Damion Willis that called back his 35-yard touchdown catch. After the game, the rookie wide receiver expressed his frustration with not only officials on the field Thursday night, but the league’s new pass interference rules at large.
“They still didn’t tell me what I did,” Willis told The Athletic’s Paul Dehner Jr. “They just said pass interference on the offense. I hate the new rule; I can tell you that.”
Willis wasn’t the only player who never received an explanation from the officiating crew for his role in a big play being taken away. Washington’s Cam Sims told a similar story in the post-game locker room, and video of his penalty reveals incidental contact that routinely goes uncalled. Nevertheless, the call on the field was upheld by replay review after Redskins coach Jay Gruden took advantage of the newfound opportunity to challenge pass interference judgement calls.
In March, NFL owners voted to allow offensive and defensive pass interference to be subject to a coach’s challenge, with a booth review being initiated in the last two minutes of each half, even if no flag was initially called on the play. Bengals owner Mike Brown was the only owner to vote against the change, which was implemented in the wake of a controversial no-call that helped decide last year’s NFC Championship game.