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UFL announces "rule enhancements"

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By Dan Waters

The newly founded United Football League announced Wednesday that some key “game enhancements and rule modifications” would be implemented for the league’s “Premiere” season.

Some of the NFL’s more controversial, almost archaic rules have been altered “in an effort to make the United Football League games innovative, modern and accessible to the fans,” according to a league press release.

Take it with a grain of salt, but here is my personal opinion on a few of the modifications that should prove to be the most relevant to you, the fans:

1. The elimination of the “Tuck” rule.

Unfortunately for Raiders fans, they might be some of the only people to actually understand the “Tuck” rule (see Raiders at Patriots in the 2002 AFC divisional playoff showdown), so let me try to explain the implications of what is possibly the most awkwardly worded, subjectively enforced regulation in the NFL’s rulebook.

The “Tuck” rule states that once the passer’s arm is intentionally moving forward, the process of a forward pass has begun, and does not cease until the passer completely “tucks” the ball back into his body. If the passer loses the ball at any point from when he starts his intentional passing motion until the ball is fully “tucked” into his body (deeming him no longer a passer, but rather a runner), the play is ruled an incomplete pass rather than a fumble. This holds true even if the passer loses possession of the ball while in the process of “tucking” the ball.

That was in layman’s terms. You can imagine the debacle that is the actual wording, not to mention its subsequent interpretation, which is subjective at best.

It might be something of a non-sequitur, but personally, I believe that QBs in the NFL are babied too much. Now, before everyone jumps down my throat, I understand that they are susceptible to big, possibly devastating hits. I also understand that, although the league may not articulate this, the NFL is a business and QBs are its chief moneymakers. Nonetheless, we are still playing football, a hard-nosed, blue-collar sport in which the players are supposed to be gritty and able to fend for themselves.

That being said, the problem I have with the “Tuck” rule lies in the fact that even if the passer no longer has any intention of throwing a pass, but is still in the process of bringing, for example, a pump fake back down into his body (where he would be deemed a runner) and loses possession, that would be an incomplete pass.

I understand that considering the passer’s intent is not very practical, and this is why the NFL should follow the lead of the UFL and eliminate the ambiguous “Tuck” rule. It will be advantageous for the UFL to distinguish itself from the NFL by providing the fans with a rulebook devoid of the NFL’s more controversial policies such as this one. Plus, nobody minds the thrill of a loose ball scramble, right?

2. Both teams get a chance to possess the ball in overtime.

I don’t think this one needs much explaining.

The sudden-death rule has been one of the most widely criticized rules in the NFL. Although sudden death will still apply in the UFL after both teams have gotten a possession in overtime, this rule diminishes the importance of winning the coin toss when the first four quarters end in a tie. Plus, as a fan, there won’t be that feeling of helplessness when the opponent gets the ball to commence OT and only needs to go 40 yards to get in field-goal range and win the game. It is also possible that the rule change will encourage teams to go for a two-point conversion to try to seal the game when the situation arises.

Again, I definitely like the added excitement for the fans.

3. “The quarterback can legally ground the football if inside or outside the pocket area while under duress.”

I quoted this one exactly from the UFL’s press release because, in all honesty, I don’t entirely understand its implications. From what I gleaned, the league is essentially eliminating the intentional grounding penalty.

This rule “enhancement” jumped out at me as being potentially problematic for the UFL for a couple of reasons. First, if my interpretation is correct, this should effectively do away with the QB getting sacked. If he can just ground the ball when under pressure, the only QBs that are going to get sacked are the ones that wouldn’t pass the DMV’s peripheral eye exam.

If you couldn’t tell from my previous rant on NFL QBs, personally, I greatly enjoy a big hit being laid on a quarterback by a blitzing defender. I feel like allowing QBs to get rid of the ball anywhere, anytime will essentially make these big hits on QBs obsolete.

The second issue I see regarding this new policy is the way it will affect defenders’ statistics. It isn’t necessarily a problem, but there will have to be some way to gauge the pressure a defender applies other than sack totals. Just a thought, but maybe a stat such as hurries will become a more widely utilized measure of defensive success.

In my opinion, those three rule changes will be the ones that are noticeable on a game-to-game basis and have the most extensive implications for the league and its fans. Feel free to e-mail me at dwaters@pfwmedia.com. I would love to hear what you think about these changes, as well as the direction in which the UFL is going.

Here is a quick list of some of the other “rule enhancements” that the UFL applied, as taken directly from the league’s press release:

  • “A fumble into and out of the endzone returns the ball to the spot of the fumble when not recovered in the endzone — making it consistent with other fumble rules.”
  •  “Tasteful individual and/or group celebrations are permitted only in endzone and bench area.”
  • “Instant-replay rulings will be made by the replay official in the replay booth rather than the on-field referee. Review time will be 90 seconds rather than 60 seconds.”
  • “Approved television cameras will be allowed in the locker rooms for the first four minutes of halftime.”
  • “Head coaches will be wired for sound for television broadcasts (no sideline discussions will be aired). Cameras and microphones in the bench area will be allowed during the game to capture real-time emotional moments.”
  • “TV audience will hear coach-to-quarterback communications on tape-delayed basis.”

 

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