The previously little-known new rule that helped the New York Jets beat the New England Patriots in overtime last Sunday was suggested last offseason by Washington Redskins center Will Montgomery.
Montgomery suggested the rule change, he says, after suffering a hamstring injury last season when he was steamrolled by four Cincinnati Bengals players while blocking for a field goal. Montgomery suggested to the players’ union, and then to the NFL’s competition committee, that there be a rule prohibiting a player from pushing a teammate into the offensive formation on a field goal attempt.
“Last year when I pulled my hamstring when four guys were over me in the Cincinnati game, that was the one when I thought that this should be an illegal play,” Montgomery said Thursday at Redskins Park. “So that’s when I followed up with DeMaurice Smith [the union’s executive director] and he invited me out to the competition committee to present my case.”
According to Montgomery, Baltimore Ravens Coach John Harbaugh made a similar proposal. Montgomery made a presentation to the competition committee. The result was an offseason rule change, put into effect this season, prohibiting such pushing on field goals.
The new rule received little notice at the time but became prominent last weekend when the Patriots were penalized for violating the rule on an overtime field goal try missed by the Jets. The Jets retained possession of the ball and converted a field goal later on the same drive to win.
“One of my assistant o-line coaches texted me and said, ‘Hey, nice rule change,’ ” Montgomery said. “It was more comical [and] things like that more than anything else.”
Montgomery said the rule he suggested would have prohibited a lineman being pushed into the offensive field goal formation by a player lined up behind him, a linebacker. The rule that was enacted didn’t draw such a distinction and prohibits any player, no matter where he’s lined up, from pushing a teammate into the offensive formation on a field goal.
That distinction led to some confusion when Patriots Coach Bill Belichick initially reacted to the penalty call by saying his team didn’t have a player on the “second level,” a linebacker, push a lineman and therefore should not have been called for the infraction. Belichick later acknowledged that he’d been wrong and the rule, indeed, prohibits all pushing.
“The way they wrote the rule, they said that you can’t have anybody push you from behind,” Montgomery said. “In the examples I gave last year, it was with linebackers, obviously. Now with teams trying to pull a fast one on people, they try to have the defensive linemen push instead of the linebackers. … The rule accounted for defensive linemen, also. But I guess [the Patriots] didn’t realize that.”
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● Shanahan on the appeals process at 9:15, and Mike Jones’s five story lines to watch at 10.
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