Demise of NFL tuck rule could be at hand

(AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

Patriots quarterback Tom Brady in the famed “tuck rule” playoff game against the Raiders (AP Photo/Elise Amendola)

NFL team owners could vote as soon as Tuesday on the proposals made by the league’s competition committee, including one to eliminate the “tuck rule” and another that would make it illegal for a ball carrier to lower his head to strike a defender in some instances.

The competition committee is to present the proposed rule changes to the owners Tuesday in Phoenix at the NFL’s annual meeting. A proposal must be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 owners. Any vote that is not taken Tuesday would be taken Wednesday, the final day of the meetings.

The demise of the tuck rule apparently is at hand. The competition committee already has presented its proposals to the coaches. St. Louis Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the competition committee, said Monday there has been little dissent so far.

“We all know it’s a fumble,” Fisher said. “So let’s make it a fumble…. It’s been well received. It makes sense.”

But the vote might not be 32-0.

“I might have to abstain from that [vote], emotionally,” New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft said earlier Monday. “I have a great bond with the tuck rule.”

Kraft’s Patriots, of course, famously benefited from the tuck rule to beat the Oakland Raiders in a snowy AFC playoff game in 2002 on the way to the first of their three Super Bowl titles.

“I never heard of the tuck rule before the snow game,” Kraft said. “I love the tuck rule, and forever will.”

Said Fisher: “This is not retroactive, by the way.”

Under the proposed change, a play on which a quarterback loses the ball while bringing it down after completing his throwing motion would be ruled a fumble, rather than an incompletion. With the tuck rule in effect, such a play is an incomplete pass, unless the quarterback has tucked the ball back into his body to become a runner.

Fisher also defended the committee’s proposal that would make it illegal for either a runner or tackler to initiate a blow on an opponent with the crown of his helmet while outside the tackle box and more than three yards down the field. Such a play would result in a 15-yard personal foul.

“We’re bringing the shoulder back into the game,” Fisher said. “The helmet is a protective device. It’s not designed to be used like it’s being used today.”

The proposal has received some criticism. Chicago Bears tailback Matt Forte wrote over the weekend on Twitter that running backs need to be allowed to protect themselves.

Fisher said Monday: “We think there’s a difference between protecting yourself and striking someone with the crown of your helmet.”

The league studied one week of games from last season and found that the new rule would have resulted in five penalties that week if it had been in effect.

 

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