Do you foresee a change in the rule concerning a quarterback outside the tackle box being bale to throw the ball away as long it is past the line of scrimmage just to avoid the sack? It seems that teams and quarterbacks are throwing the ball away too much and it is something that I think is not for the good of the game. --Joe, Atlanta
The rule allowing the quarterback to throw the ball away while outside of the tackle box was put in to protect the quarterback. However, the ball must get back to or be near the line of scrimmage in order to avoid an intentional grounding foul, even though the quarterback is out of the pocket. The rule is a good one and allows the quarterback to get rid of the ball when he knows he has no chance to complete the pass. Without the rule there would be any number of additional sacks in a ball game. I disagree that this rule is not good for the game. The most important position, offensively, in my opinion, is the quarterback and any rule that gives him added protection is definitely good for the game.
Is it a penalty for a lineman to be downfield on a forward pass that does not cross the line of scrimmage such on screen passes? --Bill, Belvedere
It's is a foul when an ineligible offensive player, including a T formation quarterback prior to a legal forward pass moves downfield without contacting an opponent at the line of scrimmage. This restriction ends when the ball leaves the passer's hand. As long as the pass is thrown forward, ineligible linemen are restricted, whether or not the pass crosses the line of scrimmage. Under NCAA rules, ineligible offensive players are restricted only if the pass crosses the line of scrimmage. The pros are restricted on screen passes, as well as passes thrown beyond the line.
Do all NFL officials use the same brand and type of whistle? Many times this season a whistle has blown but it couldn't be heard on television and even some of the players missed it. Is the problem with the brand of whistle or simply with the crowd noise? --David Englund, Belvidere, Ill.
I'm not an expert with regard to the different brands of whistles, but the most popular are the Fox40 whistle and the Acme Thunderer. If you cannot hear the whistle while watching television, it is because of the noise of the game, not the lack of volume of the whistle. The noise level at college and pro football games is very high and many times the officials on the field have a hard time hearing a fellow official's whistle.
May the center move any part of his body prior to the snap? What conditions must exist for it to be considered a false start? --Angela Gardner, Killeen, Texas
The NFL rule says that the snap may be made by any offensive player who is on the line but must conform to the following provisions: The snap must start with the ball on the ground with its long axis horizontal and at right angles to the line, and the impulse must be given by one quick and continuous motion of hand or hands of the snapper. The ball must actually leave or be taken from his hands during this motion. The snapper may not move his feet abruptly from the start of the snap until the ball has left his hands and he may not have quick plays after the neutral zone starts if the officials have not had a reasonable time to assume their normal positions. However, slight movement of his body is allowed. A false start is only called on the snapper when he violates the above or displays a decisive movement of his head, simulating the start of the play.
What is the reasoning behind the "illegal man down field" penalty? --Matt Norris, Brookfield, Ill.
Not having enough facts to give you the actual reasoning or history behind the illegal man downfield penalty, I can offer my opinion. The defensive team reads the offensive blockers in order to determine whether the play is a pass or a run in most cases. When the linemen raise up and do not move downfield, the defensive team knows it is a pass. If the linemen move downfield, the defense knows it is a run. I believe this rule was put in to make the game fair for the defense.
During Sunday's Giants-Cowboys playoff, Dallas receiver Terry Glenn caught a pass, lost his balance and instead of putting his free hand down, he touched the ground with the football to regain his footing and then continued running. Would the play not be dead at that time and the player ruled down once the ball hit the ground, he was hit by an opponent? --Joe Farrell, Frisco, Texas
A runner in possession of the ball is declared down and the play is dead when, after being contacted by a defender, any part of his body other than a hand or a foot touches the ground. With the ball solidly in the hand or hands of a runner, he may use the ball to regain his balance and continue on. Remember the rule just stated. The advance may look unusual but is perfectly legal.
During the Colts-Chargers game there was a play that had two penalties. One against the chargers for illegal formation and the other against the Colts for illegal contact. The referee stated that "the illegal contact penalaty was waved off because the quarterback was out of the pocket." What gives? It seems that this was incorrectly stated or as I see it, every time a quarterback rolls out the defenders can just tackle the receivers. I know that I'm wrong but I need your help on this play. --G.L. Kirby, Charlottesville, Va.
The rules states that an eligible receiver may be contacted by a defender only to a point five yards beyond the line of scrimmage unless the player who receives the snap demonstrates no further intention to pass the ball, including handing off the ball, pitching the ball, or moving out of the pocket. Within this five-yard zone a defensive player may chuck an eligible receiver in front of him. The defender is allowed to maintain continuous and unbroken contact within the five yard zone so long as the receiver has not moved beyond a point that is even with the defender. The defender may not hold or tackle the eligible receiver. This would constitute defensive holding and is not considered illegal contact. This defensive holding foul is not governed by where it occurs on the field.
Is there ever a situation where a team can have 1st down and 8 yards? If so can you explain? NFL or college. --Rick, Colorado Springs, Colo.
Yes, the offensive team with first and 10 runs for a first down. An offensive holding foul is called at a point two yards beyond the line of scrimmage and eight yards behind the spot where the run ends. Because the foul was beyond the line of scrimmage, the penalty would be enforced from that spot. The 10 yard penalty would then leave the offensive team with a first down and eight yards to go. Acceptance of the penalty would repeat the down, thus making it first down again.
Are females eligible to be an NFL official? If so has there ever been a female official in the NFL? --Stacey O'Leary, Northbrook, Ill.
There is no restriction on the gender of NFL officials. The path to the NFL officiating staff is low-level officiating to start with and then, slowly progressing to higher levels of play. Grade school, high school, small college and major college officiating gives the necessary experiences for an individual to seek the highest officiating venue in the land. This takes years to accomplish and anyone going through this process who has the necessary skills would be considered for a position by the National Football League. However there has yet to be a female official in the NFL.
At what point is the ball downed when the punting team downs it? Is it when they first touch the ball, or when they come to rest with it? --Mark, Vero Beach, Fla.
When a punt is illegally touched by a kicking team player, the spot is marked with a bean bag and the play continues. The ball becomes dead and the play ended when the kicking team player gains possession of the ball. There is one exception to this rule: If a kicking team player illegally recovers the ball inside of the receivers' five yard line and he continues on into the end zone, a touchback is ruled and the receivers put the ball in play at their own 20-yard line.