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Jerry Markbreit's answers
Regarding the "football move" question after a catch, say a receiver catches the ball while both feet are off the ground and is wrapped up by a would-be tackler. He therefore cannot make any "football moves" as his feet are off the ground. While preparing to plant the receiver in the ground the ball is ripped loose. Fumble or catch? --John, Poughkeepsie, N.Y.
I assume that this player is in the middle of the field, and not on the sideline. The ruling is incomplete pass because the receiver must come down inbounds with both feet in order to complete a catch. If your play was on the sideline, you could have a forceout, providing that the receiver holds the ball after hitting the ground. The definition of a forceout is when a receiver would have come down inbounds with both feet, but is driven out of bounds by a defender, preventing his feet from coming down inbounds.
I believe the Dallas-Seattle wild card came to a conclusion with Seattle punting to Dallas. The punt went out of bounds at the 50-yard line with 2 seconds remaining on the clock and the Dallas receiver waiving for a fair catch. Did Dallas have the choice to attempt an uncontested free kick to win the game? I think a 60 yard kick is more likely to succeed than a Hail Mary. --Edward Rytych, Downers Grove, Ill.
In order to have the option of a free kick after a fair catch, the signaler must catch the ball inbounds. In your play, the punt went out of bounds, thus, eliminating any option other than putting the ball in play with a scrimmage down, as they did. I am sure that if Dallas had the opportunity to try a field goal from 60 yards out, with no rush by the defense, they would have elected to do so. It is not uncommmon for a kickoff to travel seventy yards in flight.
Once a play is run, a previous play can't be challenged or reviewed. What if there is a penalty such as too many men in the huddle, unabated to the quarterback or delay of game before the offense can actually run a play? Would that prevent the defense from challenging? Or the offense if it were a play they might want to challenge? --Hank Jones, Joliet, Ill.
You are correct that no challenge is possible once the ball is snapped for the next play. If a penalty for too many men in the huddle is called, there has not been a snap and therefore, the previous play can be challenged. The same goes for unabated to the quarterback and delay of game. Remember, the key words are "the next snap."
While enjoying the divisional playoff games with some friends this weekend we got into a disagreement that I thought you might be able to help out with. How much do NFL officials generally run throughout the course of a game? Which position has to run around the most? --Lynn Paik, Shorewood, Ill.
During the pre-season games for the 2005 season, pedometers were put on officials in a number of games to determine the distance run during a normal NFL game. The referee or crew chief averaged better than five miles per game. The sideline officials average close to five miles per game, and the back judge, who is deep in the middle of the field, averaged better than six miles per game. The umpire, who is behind the defensive line, covered the shortest distance, averaging about two miles per game. Overall, the officials do a lot of running and must be in top-notch condition at all times.
Jerry, In the Seahawks-Bears game, Rex Grossman was hit from the front while holding the ball over his head. He lost the ball, but it was ruled an incomplete pass because his arm went forward when he was hit. It appeared to me that the only reason his arm went forward was due to the impact from the defensive player. Can a quarterback be ruled to have thrown a pass solely because his someone else forced his arm forward? --Brian D., Cleveland
The determination of pass versus fumble has nothing to do with the hit being made on the quarterback. Regardless of why the arm comes forward with the ball in control, the play is ruled a forward pass. If the arm comes forward with the ball not in control, even if the ball goes forward, the play will be ruled a fumble. The referee is focused on the arm of the quarterback, and it is his decision whether it is a pass or fumble. The Rex Grossman play was a perfect example of what I have described: His arm did come forward with the ball solidly in possession and the play was correctly ruled an incomplete forward pass.
In the Cowboys-Seahawks playoff game, Terry Glenn fumbled into the end zone. A Seahawks player then grabbed the ball and appeared to throw it back into the field of play for his teammates to recover. He happened to be out of bounds, but what would have been the call if he wasn't? You can't intentionally throw the ball back into play can you? --Brian, Chicago
Several things could have happened on this play. If the Seahawk player had been inbounds, it could have been considered an illegal bat. It is illegal to bat a loose ball in any direction in either end zone. If the player had been inbounds and in control of the ball, his action could have been considered a forward pass, which would have been illegal because a change of possession had occurred. Either one of these actions, if flagged, could have resulted in a safety. Fouls in their own end zone would have been enforced from the spot of the foul, resulting in the safety.
According to NFL rules, can the ground cause a fumble? --Larry B. Surles, Davenport, Fla.
When a runner is contacted by a defensive player and he touches the ground with the ball solidly in possession with any part of his body, except his hand or foot, the play shall be declared dead immediately. If upon hitting the ground in this situation, the ball comes loose from the concussion of the ground, the play is over and a fumble is not ruled. In this case, the ground cannot cause a fumble. However, if a runner not contacted by a defender goes to the ground and then fumbles the ball, the play continues. In this case, contact with the ground can legally cause a fumble.
We all saw the botched field-goal attempt in the Dallas-Seattle game. I was wondering , if a holder on a field-goal or extra-point try drops the ball is it legal for the kicker to kick the ball off the ground without the ball being held by the holder. --Russ Colver, Palm Desert, Calif.
No, this would be illegally kicking a football, which carries a 10-yard penalty from the previous line of scrimmage. If this illegal kick sent the ball through the uprights, the score would be disallowed because of the foul. No ball can ever be kicked legally when it is on the ground, unless it is being held for a field goal or a try.
Jerry, what's the purpose of the K balls? Is it to prevent kickers from messing with the game balls too much? --Chris Franklin, Evanston, Ill.
The K balls are kept separate from the regular game balls. After being checked for air content and rubbed down by designated ball handlers, they are put in the possession of the K ball boys. These ball boys have a K on the front and back of their vests and are easily identified. They only handle the K balls. There is another set of boys who handle the game balls. There are many reasons why the K ball is used, but your comment is as good as any.
Could you please go over the rule of breaking the plane? We have regular debates about it and I am not sure of the answers. Does a player or the ball have to cross the plane in bounds for it to be a touchdown? Can a player leap from the 2-yard line have his body and the ball out of bounds but land past the plane and have it be a touchdown? --Brian Gozdan, Warminster, Penn.
The goal-line plane extends beyond the sidelines. In officials' talk, "It extends around the world!" A player in possession of the ball may be out of bounds in the air, holding the ball so that it breaks the plane of the goal line at or inside of the goal line pylon. In other words, your player who leaves the field at the 2-yard line, need only have the ball in his hand pass over or inside of the pylon in order to score. The position of the player, as long as he not landed out of bounds, has no effect on the ruling.