Have a question about the NFL? Ask Times NFL writer Sam Farmer, and he will answer as many as he can online and in the Sunday editions of the newspaper throughout the season. Email questions to: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Question: Why does the NFL cling to the “two feet inbounds” rule for receivers? It seems overly restrictive. If they adopted college football’s one foot inbounds rule, it would result in even more extraordinary catches and create additional scoring opportunities.
Farmer: Going with the college rule would certainly change the game. Here’s what longtime NFL receiver Tim Brown, a Hall of Fame candidate, said about that idea: “With all the rules they have now to help receivers, if you did that, it would make the game impossible for defensive players. Oh my gosh, I can’t even imagine. It would just be ridiculous all the plays you could make if you only had to worry about one foot. I can’t remember that coming up too much with me, because I got it done. [Laughs] But I can remember being in the back of the end zone a couple times and just barely being out.”
Brown, a Heisman Trophy winner from Notre Dame, made nine Pro Bowls in his 16 seasons with the Raiders. He caught 1,094 passes for 14,934 yards and 100 touchdowns, and he began his NFL career when defensive backs had a lot more latitude to make contact with receivers.
“Obviously, the numbers you could put up now would just be incredible,” he said. “But at the same time, it almost makes you more proud of what you were able to do back then. When I first got in the league, they were able to bump you all the way down the field until the ball was in the air. Then it went to the five-yard rule that was never called, especially when you played Kansas City in Kansas City.… So it makes you more proud of what you were able to do.”
Question: What are the differences between offsides, encroachment and neutral-zone infraction?
Farmer: A player is offside when he’s in the neutral zone at the snap. That’s a live-ball foul, so play continues after that penalty. Encroachment is when a defensive player makes contact with an offensive player before the snap. That shuts down the play. A neutral-zone infraction is when a defender jumps into the neutral zone and causes a false start. There’s no play on a neutral-zone infraction.