I'm sure you're getting a million questions about the ball that went through Brian Griese's legs, but why is that a false start and a snap over the punter's head is a live ball? If Griese was in the shotgun would it still have been a false start? --Michael Brenner, Chicago
Here's what the rule book says, "Any extension of hands by a player under center as if to receive the snap is a false start unless while under center he receives the snap. This includes any player under or behind the center placing his hands on his knees or on the body of the center. It is legal for a player under center who has extended his hands to legally go in motion, thus becoming a backfield man." The snap in the Bears game went through the quarterback's legs without touching him, thus, becoming a false start. This situation is seldom seen but was called correctly by Ed Hochuli and his crew by shutting the play down. When a snap goes over a punter's head or a shotgun quarterback's head, the ball is live and can be recovered and advanced by anyone. This action is considered a backward pass.
In the Bears-Eagles game Sunday, Greg Olson was called for offensive pass interference for making contact with a blitzing linebacker while going out for a pass. The contact was only 2 or 3 yards past the line of scrimmage. Shouldn't this fall within the 5-yard range in which contact can be made, or does that only apply to defenders? --David, Marengo, Ill.
The defensive team is restricted from contacting eligible pass receivers once the receivers are five yards beyond the line of scrimmage. This foul is called, "illegal contact" and carries a five-yard penalty and an automatic first down for the offense. The rule for offensive pass interference include blocking anywhere downfield by an offensive player before to the ball is touched; initiating contact with a defender by shoving or pushing off to create separation in an attempt to catch a pass; and, driving through a defender who has established a position on the field. In simpler terms, the offense is restricted from any blocking once they are more than one-yard beyond the line of scrimmage on any pass play until the ball has been legally touched.
In the Bears-Eagles game, Donovan McNabb ran the ball out of bounds near the first-down marker. His foot appeared to cross the sideline in the air just shy of the sticks but it landed out of bounds past the first down marker. The ball was spotted just short of the first down. Of course, the officials may have seen it differently than I did. What would be the proper spot of the ball in a situation like this? --David Englund, Belvidere, Ill.
When a player crosses the sideline in possession of the ball, the forward progress point is the spot where the ball is being held by the ball carrier. The fact that the runner's body appears to have been beyond the line to gain does not determine the progress spot; it's where the ball is when he crosses the sideline.
Why is Devin Hester allowed to wear a defensive number (23) when he is now a receiver and doesn't play defense at all? --Scott Jared, Skokie, Ill.
Number 23 is both an offensive number and a defensive number. Here's the number rundown: Quarterbacks, punters and place kickers must be numbered 1-19; running backs and defensive backs, 20-49; centers, 50-59, or 60-79 if 50-59 are unavailable; offensive guards and tackles, 60-79; wide receivers, 10-19 and 80-89; tight ends, 80-89; defensive linemen, 60-79 or 90-99 if 60-79 are unavailable. So Hester has the right to wear his number on either side of the ball.
I have a follow-up to the Charles Woodson . If a punt returner signals for a fair catch, but takes the ball on a bounce, since he cannot advance the ball, is he also not allowed to be hit, as if he had caught the ball? --Ron Gubrud, Texas
The signaller who fails to catch the kick but gets it on the bounce is not protected from being tackled; however, he is protected from anything deemed unnecessary roughness. He, of course, cannot legally advance the ball by rule.
Jerry, in the Oct. 20 Michigan-Illinois game there was a critical roughing the kicker personal foul called against Illinois. When I went back to look at it on the DVR, the Illinois player actively tries to avoid the kicker's leg by ducking and trying to get away from him but the kicker's foot comes down on the player's lower back. What is the difference between the 5-yard and the 15-yard personal foul, which results in an automatic first down? And do you think in the NCAA or NFL, penalties that have two different enforcements should be reviewable? --Earl, Tinley Park, Ill.
In both college and professional football, the kicker must be given an opportunity to return to the ground with both feet after the kick. When the kicker comes down on top of a defensive player, it is a foul, even though it might be unintentional. A five-yard penalty for running into the kicker does not have an automatic first down attached to it under both college and professional rules. This foul is called when a defender contacts the kicker, but not in an unnecessary roughness mode. The 15-yard roughing the kicker penalty is called when the plant foot of the kicker is hit by the defender or the kicker's body is hit from a hard frontal blow. This 15-yard penalty carries an automatic first down.
Replay in both college and professional, for the most part, is not involved with fouls. In my opinion, the answer to your second question is no.
During a field goal that is not on fouth down, if the snap is mishandled, can the holder spike the ball and retry the kick. What if the ball touches the ground while mishandled? --Paul, Daphne, Ala.
If the snap is mishandled by the place-kick holder and he then spikes the ball into the ground, a flag for intentional grounding will be called. He becomes the passer when he throws the ball into the ground, thus creating the foul. This mishandled snap is in play and if it is recovered by the kicking team, they can try the field goal on the next down, providing it was not fourth down.
Jerry, why do they stop the clock on a quarterback sack? They let it run when a RB gets hit behind the line. Second, why do they have hash marks on the field? Why don't they just spot it in the middle every time? --Bill Lasch, Dyer, Ind.
The clock is stopped when the quarterback is sacked throughout the game, with the exception of the last two minutes of the second and fourth quarters. The reason for the stoppage is to give deep receivers the chance to return to a spot close to the line of scrimmage. In the last two minutes of either half, this rule is waived so as not to give anyone an advantage of additional time. When a running back is dropped behind the line, no stoppage is allowed by rule. There are always special rules for potential pass plays.
The hash marks allow the offensive team a sufficient amount of room to conduct their attack. Putting the ball in the middle of a field would defeat the strategy of the game. The hash marks in the NFL are eighteen feet, six inches apart. The hash marks on a college field are 40 feet apart and 53 feet, four inches for high school. You can see that the pros have more running room to the sideline than the college and high school game.
Can a fair catch be called on an onside kick? --Pat, Des Plaines, Ill.
A fair catch signal may be made on any kicked ball that goes beyond the line of scrimmage or beyond the free kick line, so, yes, a fair catch can be made on an onside kick.
I was watching the Tampa Bay-Detroit game on Sunday when Jeff Garcia appeared to fumble a ball that was recovered by Detroit. After review, I believe the referee called a tuck rule and it was ruled an incomplete pass. However, it looked like Garcia was trying to throw a pass behind the line of scrimmage at the time. Does the tuck rule automatically make a pass incomplete, no matter if the intended throw is forward or backward? --Skeeter, Normal, Ill.
The tuck rule automatically makes a forward pass incomplete. The initial direction of a pass determines whether it is forward or backward. If the initial direction is forward but the ball goes backward, it is still a forward pass under NFL rules.
Jerry, during the Bears-Eagles game referee Ed Hochuli took a minute off the clock after a commercial break following a fourth-quarter Robbie Gould Field goal. It went from 10:21 to 9:21 after the commercial. Hochuli made a mistake in announcing it but then corrected himself, something like, "Please reset the play clock to 11:21. No, I mean 9:21." Do you know what happened? David Haugh mentioned in a video chat on the Tribune that he looked at the play-by-play and nothing was fishy. Here's the play-by-play from NFL.com from that series, which looks fine to me. So was this just a problem with the stadium clock? Who keeps the official time? -- Erin Fredrickson, Chicago
The stadium electric clock is the official time during NFL games. The game clock operator will stop and start the clock upon the signal of any official, in accordance with the rules. The line judge supervises timing of the game and, in case the stadium clock becomes inoperative, or if it is not being operated correctly, he shall make the necessary corrections by advising the referee. The referee will then make an announcement for clock adjustment. What occurred in the game that you refer to was merely a clock malfunction that was corrected by the onfield officials.
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