HOOVER, Ala. - Aaron Murray doesn't blame Quinton Dial for the hit in the SEC championship. He was just doing what he was taught to do.
But those new targeting rules that will protect the quarterback in just that situation? Oh, you better believe Murray is all for it.
Dial, an Alabama lineman, leveled Murray away from the play after an interception. The play didn't draw a flag, but it should have, SEC supervisor of officials Steve Shaw later announced. And in the future it will, Shaw said this week at SEC media days.
"The definition of a defenseless player has expanded this year," Shaw said. "Now a quarterback who throws an interception, once the ball changes hands, that quarterback now, new rule, stays a defenseless receiver throughout the down. Doesn't mean he can't be hit. He can be blocked, he just can't be hit above the shoulders."
The Dial hit on Murray, which you can see below, would have drawn a flag on two counts now: Players cannot be blind-side blocked above the shoulders. During a speech on Wednesday, Shaw showed videos of such plays that will draw a penalty. They didn't include Dial's hit on Murray, but Shaw mentioned it in passing, saying it would.
Murray said on Thursday he was "definitely" in favor of the change.
"You're taught from a young age, if the quarterback throws a pick, that's the first guy you go after," Murray said. "It's nerve-wracking, every time you throw an interception your head has to be on a swivel. It's every defender's job to go after you. They don't care if you're 20 yards, 30 yards, 50 yards away from the ball. Knock the quarterback out. It's stressful. And I don't think that's what the game is meant for. You're not trying to kill someone. You're trying to block someone and be able to make a lane for your guy to run. You're not trying to take someone's head off, especially if they're not even near the play.
"So I can speak for all quarterbacks, that we're definitely happy for it."
But Murray doesn't blame Dial for that hit.
"I think that's the way everyone is taught," Murray said. "I mean every defender is taught go after the quarterback. I've played defense and I know I went after the quarterback. It's what you're taught to do."
Murray was not knocked out of the game, and was able to return for the next offensive play.
Missouri quarterback James Franklin agreed with Murray on the targeting rule, adding that he understood why it could be frustrating to defensive players.
“Because a lot of times when they do it, they’re not doing it to target a guy, to go helmet-to-helmet above the neck," Franklin said. "Some of the defensive guys have talked about with all this happening, it’s two-hand touch now. I like the rule for what they’re trying to accomplish. But at the same time it’s tough for the defenders, and maybe sometimes cause them to miss a tackle because they’re trying to be careful and not break a rule.”