GREEN BAY – Charles Woodson’s response was succinct. Told in a text message that the NFL was considering abolishing the infamous Tuck Rule that cost him and his Oakland Raiders a possible trip to the Super Bowl 11 years ago, the former Green Bay Packers safety typed three words into his iPhone.
“’Bout damn time,” Woodson replied.
Yes, when the annual NFL Meetings convene at the Arizona Biltmore resort next week in Phoenix, teams will have a chance to eliminate the Tuck Rule. It’s one of six rule changes the NFL’s competition committee is proposing.
Woodson, of course, was with the Raiders when he hit New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady on a blitz in the 2001 AFC Divisional Playoffs and caused an apparent fumble – only to see the call reversed on replay and ruled an incomplete pass based on the Tuck Rule.
Under the proposed rule change, a quarterback who loses the ball while trying to bring the ball back to his body will be charged with a fumble.
“It basically changes our tuck rule so that it is a fumble if the player loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body,” St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said, adding that the fact that all turnover plays are automatically reviewed makes eliminating the Tuck Rule easier. “Obviously, if the passer loses control of the ball as the arm is moving forward, it will still be an incomplete pass. But we now say if in the passing motion he attempts to bring the ball back to his body, even if he completes the tuck, and loses the ball in an attempt to bring the ball back to his body, it will be a fumble.”
On Oct. 28 against Jacksonville, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers thought he would get a tuck-rule call in his favor on his fumble in the final minute of the first half. But on Jaguars defensive end Andre Branch’s hit, Rodgers’ fumble was indeed ruled a fumble, setting up a Jaguars touchdown that cut the Packers’ lead to two points in what wound up being a 24-15 Green Bay victory.
“That was my initial reaction. I actually told the white cap (referee Carl Cheffers), I said, ‘Tuck rule,’” Rodgers explained after that game. “I’m not a big fan of the tuck rule. I was actually pulling for the Raiders back in the day when Woodson made him fumble. I was living in northern California, pulling for Rich Gannon and the Raiders there, so I’m not a huge fan of it. (But) it is the rule.
“That being said, as I stepped in the pocket, I felt like the ball was extending, I was bringing it back in, next thing I know I’m on my back and the ball’s not in my grasp. They recovered it, obviously they didn’t think it fell into that great rule.”
Among the proposals and points of emphasis that will be presented to and discussed with teams for a vote at the NFL Meetings are the so-called Jim Schwartz Rule, in which a play would still be reviewed even if a coach throws his challenge flag, as the Lions coach did, on a play that would be automatically reviewed; penalizing offensive players for using the crowns of their helmets when initiating contact with would-be tacklers; changing the day of final roster reductions at the end of training camp to Friday; and expanding the physically unable to perform list activation window.
Also, NFL vice president of football operations Ray Anderson said the league plans on take a “much more proactive and aggressive position” on stadium field conditions after several stadiums – most notably Washington and Chicago – had major turf issues last year.
“If at any time the league office investigators determine that a stadium is not up to NFL quality, (is) not safe or doesn’t meet our competitive standards, then this department will have the ability to require the club to remedy the situation immediately at the club’s expense,” Anderson said. “We will make sure safety is very clear in terms of our field surfaces.”
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