Print and Go Back ESPN.com: NFC West [Print without images]

Thursday, February 21, 2013
Around the NFC West: 'Jim Harbaugh rule'

By Mike Sando

The latest meeting for the NFL's competition committee could affect one NFC West team more than any other team inside or outside the division.

The NFL is renewing efforts to keep coaches from wandering too far from their sideline boxes, a move that could force the San Francisco 49ers' Jim Harbaugh to exercise greater self-control during games.

"The NFL won't call it the Jim Harbaugh Rule, but it might as well," Clark Judge of CBSSports.com wrote. "Harbaugh was on the field more than once during the playoffs, and the NFL wants that to stop -- making sure coaches understand that's where players, not coaches, belong."

In the Super Bowl, Harbaugh and many others thought officials should have flagged the Baltimore Ravens for pass interference on a critical fourth-and-goal play in the late going. Replays showed quite a bit of contact between cornerback Jimmy Smith and receiver Michael Crabtree. Replays also showed Harbaugh standing on the painted sideline at the Baltimore 17-yard line during the play. That could have been a penalty, too.

"Coaches and other non-participating team personnel (including uniformed players not in the game at the time) are prohibited from moving laterally along the sidelines any further than the points that are 18 yards from the middle of the bench area (i.e., 32-yard lines to the left and right of bench areas when benches are placed on opposite sides of the field)," the rulebook states.

Officials plan to more strictly enforce sideline rules during the 2013 season.

"All team personnel must observe the zone restrictions to the bench area and the border rimming the playing field," the NFL rulebook says. "The only persons permitted within the solid six-foot white border while play is in progress on the field are game officials. For reasons involving the safety of participating players whose actions may carry them out of bounds, officials' unobstructed coverage of the game and spectators' sightlines to the field, the border rules must be observed by all coaches and players in the bench area."

Then comes the kicker: "Violators are subject to penalty by the officials."