The Tuck Rule and Obscene Language Policy: Time for an NFL Do-Over

Matt Sabuda@@fffmattContributor IMarch 13, 2012

23 Dec 2000:  Quarterback  Jon Kitna #7of the Seattle Seahawks listens in on the referees as they decide the call during the game against the Buffalo Bills at the Husky Stadium in Seattle, Washington. The Bills defeated the Seahawks 42-23.Mandatory Credit: Otto Greule Jr.  /Allsport
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

There are rules that make football better. Then there are rules that are so maddening, not even a team of attorneys can make a case for their contribution to the game.

Going into the 2012 season, the NFL would be wise to reexamine a couple of rules both on and off the field that affect the quality and sustainability of the game.

When it comes to a league championship for most despised on-field rule, it’s difficult to find a more deserving candidate than the tuck rule.

According to NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2: “when a Team A player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble.”

Is there anyone out there that truly understands the original point of this rule? If a quarterback’s arm is going forward in a passing motion and the ball comes loose, it’s an incomplete pass. That sounds simple enough. However, if the quarterback’s arm is moving in a way that plainly indicates the quarterback is in the process of bringing the ball back to their body and it gets knocked away, it should be a fumble. 

Anyone who has ever witnessed this rule in action can’t help but be exasperated. If a running back takes the ball in the backfield, makes a move to stretch the ball away from his body, then fumbles the ball while bringing it back in toward his body, it’s a fumble. What’s the difference between the quarterback and running back examples you ask? There is none.

It’s easy to imagine the basis for this rule being crafted in a law office. I can just see two NFL attorneys sitting in a room going back and forth debating what the intent of the quarterback is under certain circumstances. 

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ORCHARD PARK, NY - OCTOBER 09: Fans of the Buffalo Bills celebrate a win against the Philadelphia Eagles at Ralph Wilson Stadium on October 9, 2011 in Orchard Park, New York. Buffalo won 31-24.  (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
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The tuck rule should be done away with immediately. It should also serve as a reminder to the league that if their rules contradict what the naked eye can plainly see, it’s OK to ask for a do-over. 

The focus of the NFL’s rule tweaking should also shift to a well intentioned but misplaced off-field rule. 

The NFL Fan Code of Conduct bans obscene or offensive language.  As a fan of the game, there are times when I’d like nothing more than to see the obscene loudmouth nearby thrown out of the stadium. However, it just seems un-American to restrict a fan’s freedom of speech.

As a former NFL employee, I’ve been on the sidelines during games. To hear some of the trash talk that goes on would lead entire teams being ejected by ushers for violations of this policy. I guess the speech restrictions don’t extend to the field.

While it’s admirable that the NFL is trying to create more of a fan-friendly atmosphere, perhaps they should focus on more important issues such as improved restrictions on alcohol sales to already intoxicated fans.  

Apply their concern to the real issues, not superficial PR policies meant to make the league appear more family friendly. The NFL should focus more on the alcohol going into a fan’s mouth, than the obscenities coming out of it.

The last time I checked, a drunk fan driving home from the game is a lot more dangerous than one using foul language.

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