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Who needs to brush up on their NFL rulebook?

About the Author

Alex Mayster

amayster@pfwmedia.com
Editorial assistant

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Posted May 18, 2011 @ 3:51 p.m. ET
By Alex Mayster

As the NFL lockout continues, one disagreement between the players and the league continues to be over how the league will govern itself moving forward. While some rules have come into question, there are others that figure to be mainstays in the NFL for years to come. The following is a list of a few interesting NFL rules — some rather unique and some blatantly obvious — along with commentary on which current and former players might want to brush up on their rulebook:

Rule 2, Section 2: Ball Supply
"Each team will make 12 primary balls available for testing by the Referee two hours and 15 minutes prior to the starting time of the game to meet League requirements. The home team will also make 12 backup balls available for testing in
all stadiums. In addition, the visitors, at their discretion, may bring 12 backup balls to be tested by the Referee for games held in outdoor stadiums."

After so many years of getting by in the back yard with a single ball, who would have thought it would be necessary for the NFL to have 24, or possibly 36, footballs on hand for every game? Luckily, they leave the refs plenty of time (more than two hours) to "inspect" the balls. Whatever that means.

Don't tell Rams RB Steven Jackson about this one, as he was fined in '09 for tossing a ball into the stands during a touchdown celebration and could be tempted to repeat the action if he knew how many spare footballs were lying around. But maybe someone should tell QB Vince Young, who probably would have been better off throwing a football into the stands after a Week 11 loss to the Redskins last season — rather than his own equipment.

The rule gets even better. On top of the size and weight regulations, which seem reasonable enough, the league has gotten even more picky about its game balls …

"The Ball must be a "Wilson," hand selected, bearing the signature of the Commissioner of the league, Roger Goodell."

Is anyone else wondering whatever happened to all the extra Paul Tagliabue-signed footballs?

Rule 11, Section 5, Article 1: Safety
"It's a safety: … (b) when an impetus by a team sends the ball behind its own goal line, and the ball is dead in the end zone in its possession or the ball is out of bounds behind the goal line."

Someone should tell former Lions QB Dan Orlovsky, who violated the second part of this rule. Orlovsky ferociously backpedaled in an '08 contest against the Vikings, so far that he scrambled right through the back of the endzone to give Minnesota two points in what has become one of the NFL's most memorable safeties. It also might not be a bad idea to tell former Vikings DE Jim Marshall who, in 1964, returned a fumble 66 yards to the wrong endzone before tossing the ball out of the back of the endzone in celebration only to be charged with a safety.

Rule 8, Section 3, Article 2: Ineligible Player Downfield After Pass is Thrown
"After the ball leaves the passer's hand, ineligible pass receivers can advance more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, or beyond the position reached by their initial charge, provided that they do not block or contact a defensive player, who is more than one yard beyond the line of scrimmage, until the ball is touched by a player of either team. Such prior blocking and/or contact is pass interference if it occurs in the vicinity of where the ball is thrown."

Someone should tell Cardinals CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, whose six defensive pass interference penalties tied for the most in the league. Rodgers-Cromartie, who had never been penalized for pass interference in his prior two seasons in the league, had more defensive pass interference penalties called on him than 12 NFL teams in ’10. The Raiders led the league in defensive pass interference penalties with 14, with CBs Stanford Routt and Chris Johnson combining for nine.

Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2
"It is a forward pass if:
(a) the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent's goal line) after leaving the passer's hands …"

Dosen't get more obvious than this. But I'm still unsure of what constitutes a running play …

Someone should tell former Redskins QB Todd Husak, who is the only NFL QB who attempted more than one pass to finish a season with a negative yards-per-pass average since 2000. Granted, he threw only two passes in that 2000 season, but to the surprise of few, he never again attempted a pass in the NFL.

Rule 4, Section 2, Article 2: Starting a Period or Half
"…
Prior to the Referee's toss, the call of "heads" or "tails" must be made by the captain of the visiting team, or by the captain designated by the Referee if there is no home team … Penalty: For failure to comply: Loss of coin-toss option for both halves and overtime, and loss of 15 yards from the spot of the kickoff for the first half only."

Someone should tell former Lions coach Marty Mornhinweg, the current Eagles offensive coordinator, who might be too scared to make another call on a coin toss. Mornhinweg decided to kick the ball away to start a 2002 overtime game in Chicago, citing the wind conditions, before watching his team lose the game without touching the ball. The Lions might have been better off holding their tongues at the coin toss.

Nothing in the rule book addresses trash talk during a coin toss, i.e. QB Matt Hasselbeck: "We want the ball and we're gonna score!" That's not what happened.

Rule 3, Section 27, Articles 1 & 2: Runner and Running Play
I found some clarification on running plays:

Turns out a "runner" is defined as "the offensive player who is in possession of a live ball i.e., holding the ball or carrying it in any direction."

While a "running play" is "a play during which there is a runner and which is not followed by a kick or forward pass from behind the scrimmage line."

Hope the readers now have a clear understanding of both the run and pass. Someone should tell Bears backup QB Todd Collins, who seemed unable to grasp either concept in Chicago's 21-14 NFC championship game loss to the Packers.

Rule 8, Section 1, Article 2: Legal Forward Pass — Penalties (2)
"Roughing the passer rules apply on all passes (legal or illegal) thrown from behind the line of scrimmage. If a pass is thrown from beyond the line of scrimmage, unnecessary roughness may apply for action against the passer."

Someone should tell Steelers LB James Harrison, who was hit with roughing-the-passer penalties in three contests last season and racked up a total of $125,000 in fines in ’10. Harrison had only three roughing-the-passer penalties in his career heading into last season, but the league has cracked down on the penalty more and more throughout his career. Only the Lions, with six, racked up as many pass interference penalties as the Steelers last season.

Rule 5, Section 4, Articles 5: Items Colored Like Football
In the section labeled "Equipment, Uniforms, Player Appearance" the rulebook goes into specifics on what players can and cannot wear on game day. Article 4, Section (G) recites the following ban:

"Headgear or any other equipment or apparel which, in the opinion of the Referee, may confuse an opponent because of its similarity in color to that of the game football..."

This one's too easy. Somebody should tell … the Cleveland Browns, whose wardrobe, as well as team name, matches the color of a football.

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