'Tuck Rule' eliminated from NFL rulebook

The 'Tuck' play: Greg Papa's radio call

'Tuck Rule' eliminated from NFL rulebook
March 20, 2013, 10:00 am
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In the 2002 AFC divisional playoff game, a fumble by Tom Brady was overturned and ruled an incomplete pass thanks to the "Tuck Rule." (AP)

PHOENIX -- The "Tuck Rule" is dead.

The obscure ruling that prevented the Raiders from a playoff victory -- and launched the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl title -- more than a decade ago was abolished in a team-by-team vote.

Each of the six rules-change proposals were passed on Wednesday, the final day of the NFL owners meetings at the Arizona Biltmore.

The most controversial rule that passed was outlawing a ballcarrier or tackler from lowering his head and striking an opponent with the crown of the helmet in open space.

The rule had surprising support at the meetings, passing by a 31-1 vote.

Seattle coach Pete Carroll said the passing of the rule is a challenge for coaches, but that it's ultimately a good rule to have in place.

"It's a good move to teach football players at all levels not to lead with the helmet," Carroll said.

A 15-yard penalty will be assessed for striking an opponent with the crown of the helmet in open space.

Meanwhile, the end of the "Tuck Rule" comes much too late for the Raiders. In an AFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 19, 2002, the Raiders appeared to secure victory in snowy Foxboro, Mass., when Charles Woodson forced a fumble of Tom Brady, who began to pass and was bringing the ball to his body when he lost control.

Referee Walt Coleman, upon review, introduced the world to the "Tuck Rule," overturning the fumble and ruling an incomplete pass. The Patriots tied the game in regulation, won it in overtime, and marched on to win Super Bowl XXXVI over the St. Louis Rams.

The other rules changes:

--If a team initiates a challenge when it is not permitted to do so, the review will still take place, as long as it's a reviewable play. A timeout will be charged when an impermissible challenge flag is thrown. If a team initiating an improper challenge has no timeouts remaining, a 15-yard penalty will be assessed.

--During field-goal or extra-point attempts, no more than six defensive players may be on the line of scrimmage on either side of the snapper at the snap. For an illegal formation by the defense, it's a 5-yard penalty from the previous spot. Also, defensive players not on the line of scrimmage at the snap cannot push players on the line into the offensive formation. The penalty will be 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

--If a player who is aligned in the tackle box when the ball is snapped, moves to a position outside the box, he cannot initiate contact on the side and below the waist of an opponent if the blocker is moving toward his own end line and he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side. If the near shoulder of the blocker contacts the front of the opponent's body, the "peel back" block is legal. For an illegal "peel back" block, it's a 15-yard penalty.

--Because of the shortage of eligible numbers from 80 to 89, tight ends and H-backs would be allowed to wear uniform numbers from 40 to 49.