Rule-change proposals: 'Tuck Rule' to be abolished?

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

Rule-change proposals: 'Tuck Rule' to be abolished?
March 18, 2013, 8:30 am
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In an AFC divisional playoff game on Jan. 19, 2002, Charles Woodson forced a fumble of Tom Brady. Upon review, referee Walt Coleman introduced the world to the "Tuck Rule," overturning the fumble and ruling an incomplete pass. (AP)

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PHOENIX -- More than a decade after the "Tuck Rule," a then-obscure NFL technicality, launched the New England Patriots to their first Super Bowl and brought the Raiders' season to a cold and bitter conclusion, the NFL is poised to eliminate it once and for all.

Actually, that's already happened, according to the NFL Competition Committee.

The "Tuck Rule" is one of six rules proposals on which NFL owners will be asked to vote during the NFL Annual Meeting at the Arizona Biltmore. Twenty-four votes are required among the 32 clubs for any rule change.

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.

Given new life, 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 new proposal, which is expected to pass the owners' vote, changes the rule so that it is a fumble if the player loses possession during an attempt to bring the ball back to his body.

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the Competition Committee, said referees have already started making the call of fumble on their own, anyway.

"The officials on the field now are ruling that it is a fumble and the plays are going to review," Fisher said. "We are going to change this to clean this up and eliminate the 'Tuck Rule,' so to speak."

The other proposed rules changes:

--Three of the possible rules changes are designed for player safety. One is a controversial proposal that would make it illegal for a ballcarrier -- or defender -- to lower his head and strike an opponent with the crown of the helmet in open space.

"If I'm a running back and I'm running into a linebacker, you're telling me I have to keep my head up so he can take my chin off?" Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith said in an interview with a Dallas radio station. "You've absolutely lost your mind."

Said Rich McKay, chair of the Competition Committee: "We really think the time has come that we need to address the situation in space when a runner or a tackler has a choice as to how they are going to approach the opponent. We are going to say that you can’t make that choice ducking your head and delivering a blow, a forcible blow, with the top crown of your helmet. We are trying to protect the runner or the tackler from himself in that instance."

--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.

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