The Washington Times - August 2, 2013, 03:23PM

RICHMOND—NFL game officials at Redskins training camp the last two days have discussed with the team elements of officiating the zone-read option and protecting players who either don’t have the ball or intend to give themselves up.

Those are focal points because coach Mike Shanahan has said quarterback Robert Griffin III must protect himself this season by sliding or running out of bounds to avoid contact. The zone-read option also exposes Griffin to contact, but Griffin can minimize the risk.


“The moment that he releases that ball, he has to present to the defense as quickly as he possibly can he’s no longer in the play,” NFL referee Gene Steratore explained to reporters Friday afternoon.

“If he continues in that next one or two steps to start to carry out an option fake without the ball, he’s suspect to being hit.

“How the quarterbacks adjust to that, how we officiate that, is pretty much a definitive show that this ball has been released and he steps back and he may even, after he releases that football, take a step back and put his hands up. Once that occurs, he declares himself not taking a play fake, not continuing his attempt to deceive the defense, and contact with him there in an unnecessary fashion would be a foul.”

Griffin absorbed several fierce hits after handing the ball off in the read option early last season. He adjusted by demonstratively showing his empty hands, which by rule protected him from contact.

Steratore said the Redskins also have inquired about what a ballcarrier must do in order to give himself up and earn the protection afforded a player who has done so.

“As long as they’re still on the football field and running the football, they’re a runner,” Steratore said. “The timing of their slide is very critical.

A player is protected, he said, if “the moment that he begins that sliding motion…the defense has not already committed to tackling him.” A sliding quarterback can be legally hit if the defender committed to the tackle before the slide began.

Officials consider a slide to be executed feet first. If the quarterback dives head first, he is susceptible to contact, but “he is also entitled to the yardage he’s gaining,” Steratore said. “If he doesn’t go feet first, the defense is still legally allowed to contact him. So we have to make a decision at that point is that contact unnecessary…or something or that nature.”