In a recent Detroit Lions game, the quarterback, operating out of the shotgun position, pitched the ball to a running back, who, in turn, rolled to the right, pulled up as if to pass. It was apparent that the intended receiver was the quarterback who was out on a route but covered. The back ended up not throwing and took a small loss. The television analyst mentioned that the quarterback is only an eligible receiver if he is working from the shotgun, he would be ineligible if he took the snap from center. Is this correct? If so, is this unique to the NFL? I have seen high school quarterbacks take a snap from center, pitch it to a back, and then go out for a pass, which was completed to him with no infraction. Also, in the above mentioned Detroit game, would the defense be credited with a sack? --Thomas J. Kiernan, Joliet
The television analyst was correct. A shotgun quarterback is an eligible receiver. The only backfield position that is not an eligible receiver is the T-formation quarterback who takes his stance behind the center. To become an eligible pass receiver, a T-formation quarterback must assume the position of a backfield player, as in the shotgun, at least one yard behind the line of scrimmage at the snap. This rule is unique to the National Football League. Under NCAA and high school rules, the T-formation quarterback is eligible. In the play in question, the defense would not be credited with a sack. In order to get credit for a sack, the defense must tackle the player who received the snap from center.
You answered a similar question last week; I was wondering the following: Fourth down, 9 seconds to go in the game, 2 seconds remain on the play clock, the clock is running. The offense, who is winning, commits a false start penalty. Is the 10-second rule enforced and therefore is the game over? --Jim Drost, Jacksonville, Fla.
In your play, the 10-second rule is enforced only if the defensive team does not object to the runoff. The defensive team can always decline the runoff and only have the false start penalty enforced. In this case, the clock would start on the next snap.
I was watching the Bears/Packers game and had a question or three about a personal foul called on the Bears' Tank Johnson when he hit Brett Favre. What the heck is "punishing the quarterback with his weight"? What exactly was Johnson supposed to do in that situation? Is the next step to start putting airbags on QBs? --Brian Cook, Huntington Beach, Calif.
Roughing the passer was correctly called in this game. The rule states, "When tackling a passer who is in a virtually defenseless posture, a defensive player must not unnecessarily or violently throw him down and land on top of him with all or most of the defender's weight. Instead, the defensive player must strive to wrap up or cradle the passer with the defensive player's arms." The Bear defender drove the quarterback into the ground with his full body weight.
I have been reading your mailbag for several years, great job. You wrote a few years ago that in each quarter there are five TV time outs, but is seems this season there have been a great deal more per quarter. In Sunday's Patriots-Jets game there were four TV time outs in the last two minutes of the first half alone. Has the five TV timeout rules changed? --Al Embree, Champaign, Ill.
Thank you very much. The television timeout format in NFL games is still five in each quarter. A sixth timeout is allowed if television inserts a commercial during an injury or a replay timeout. What you saw in the Patriot/Jet game was a series of 30-second timeouts called by the teams during which television took short commercials at their own risk. A 30-second timeout exists when a team calls the timeout and television has either used all of its commercials or decides not to take a commercial at that time. I know that this sounds complicated because it is.
If I am correct that the kicking team can recover but cannot advance a muffed punt, what is the purpose of that rule? Also, does the muff rule still apply if the kick returner catches the ball cleanly and runs several yards before fumbling? --George McDougall, San Juan, Puerto Rico
The NFL rule is that the kicking team cannot recover and advance its own kick until it has passed into the possession of the receiving team. A muff is not possession but merely touching and the kickers can recover and keep the ball but not advance. When the kick returner catches the ball and runs several yards and loses the ball, it is a fumble, not a muff.
During the fourth quarter of the Broncos-Chiefs game, John Lynch was flagged for a unsportsmanlike conduct. He was trash talking the referee. How severe is the verbal abuse before the ref throws the flag? --Bjarke Hojgaard, Aalborg, Denmark
Football is a very rough, emotional game. Tempers flare and things are said that no one really means. It is very rare for an official to flag a player for abusive language. I do not know what was said in the game that you refer to. I do know, however, that the officials always give a player a chance to back off before penalizing.
With about two minutes to go in the third quarter of the Bears-Packers game, Brett Favre completed a pass and was obviously in pain after the play, holding his throwing wrist. The Packers were flagged for having 12 men in the ensuing huddle, and the training staff came out on the field to attend to Favre as the referee conferenced with the umpire and then made the call. Why was the training staff allowed on the field without any type of timeout being called, and why wasn't Favre forced to sit out a play after being checked out on the field? Thanks for your informative column. --David Knorowski, Chicago
Injuries occurring outside of two minutes remaining in the second and fourth quarters are charged to the officials, not to the teams. The clock is stopped for the injury and started when the injured player leaves the game, if the clock was running at the end of the play. A team is allowed to use a timeout in order to keep the injured player in the game. I am sure that is what happened in the Bears-Packers game.