When did the NFL change the rule to require that a receiver land with both feet touching the ground rather than one? I have spent too much time listening to family members bicker about this and want to end the arguing! --Kathleen Dachille, Cockeysville, Md.
The National Football League was formed in 1920. In order to be different from the college rules that existed at that time, the two-foot catch rule was born. It has lasted all these years and is truly the major difference between NCAA and NFL rules. In my opinion, getting both feet in on a great sideline or end zone catch is one of the highlights of any NFL game.
I find this to be a statistic abnormality: When a player intercepts a ball in the end zone or a ball is returned from the end zone, that player gets credit for the yards he gains from the spot of the run. How come when a QB throws a TD pass in the end zone, neither he nor the receiver is credited with the extra yards? --Al Embree, Champaign, Ill.
Your question is a good one. I honestly cannot tell you why these differences exist. The people who do the statistics are those who determine the entire yardage awarded on different plays. Two that you did not mention are a punt, which has yardage credited from the line of scrimmage, and a field goal, which is credited from the spot of the kick. I wish that I could give you a solid answer to your question, but my sources tell me that the present system is the fairest for all concerned.
In 1994 when they instituted the two-point conversion, I seem to recall that the offensive team had to inform the officials if they were going to attempt a two-point play. Is this true? Can the offense line up for an extra point kick and then throw or run for two? --Jeff McOmber, Oakdale, Conn.
When the two-point conversion was included in NFL rules, the teams were not required to inform the officials of their intention of going for two points. This would put the scoring team at a great disadvantage. What if a bad snap from center got away from the holder and another offensive player ran the ball in for a successful try? Football is a game of strategy and the offense must be given the opportunity to run an occasional trick play.
During the 2005 Holiday Bowl, Oregon's punter walked out of the back of the end zone, then came back in play before the snap. He then punted the ball. I thought that if a punter stepped out of the back of the end zone it was a safety? --Jeff Terry, Munster Ind.
When the Oregon punter stepped out of the back of the end zone, he merely had to reestablish his position by stepping back with both feet into the end zone before the ball was snapped. The punt was perfectly legal under NCAA rules. If the punter had been standing on the end line when the ball was snapped and received said snap while still out-of-bounds or before getting both feet back in play, it would have been a safety.
On two-point conversions, could a team "launch" a small player over the line of scrimmage (while he has possession of the ball) to easily score the two points? --Erik Flowers, Los Angeles
I assume what you mean by "launch" is throwing this small player over the line of scrimmage in order to score two points. This is illegal and is covered under the section of the rules that prohibits assisting the runner, except for legally blocking for his advance.
During the Bears-Packers game on Christmas Day, Muhsin Muhammad caught a touchdown pass, then celebrated by doing a "duck walk" with the ball. He then leapt in the air and chest-bumped teammate Justin Gage, then went on to chest-bump two other Bears. Don't NFL rules regarding end zone celebrations prohibit pre-planned celebrations involving multiple players and is there a penalty for this? --Mark Early, Arlington, Va.
The taunting rule states that "an unsportsmanlike conduct foul will be called when two or more players engage in prolonged, excessive, premeditated, or choreographed celebrations." In the Bear-Packer game, the action that you describe does not fall under the taunting rule. The players must be given an opportunity to celebrate, as long as they don't violate the above rule.
As an avid reader of this column I know your were smiling a little on Sunday when Doug Flutie successfully attempted a drop kick. It seemed the Patriots tipped off the officials that they were going to try a drop kick as there was only one official under the goal post instead of the standard two. I thought that during a drop kick, the opposing team is not allowed to rush in to attempt a block, but the Dolphins seemed to try to block it. Also, what is the difference between a drop kick and a free kick after a punt? --Patrick Flynn, Hadley, Mass.
I am glad that you enjoy the column, and you are correct about my smiling when I heard about Doug Flutie's successful drop kick! This is my 50th year being involved with football at all levels, and I have never seen a drop kick. I doubt if the officials were notified of the drop kick because, if they were, there would have been two officials under the goal post to make the ruling. The reason only one official was in that position was because the formation looked like a two-point try. The only time the defense is not allowed to rush in and attempt to block a kick is when a fair catch kick is awarded. A fair catch kick is an option when a successful fair catch is made and the receivers choose a free kick from the spot of the catch with the defense restricted from being any closer than 10 yards from the spot of the kick.