RIP to the Tuck Rule

The Infamous Tuck Rule Game (2002) (Photo: Getty Images)

The Infamous Tuck Rule Game (2002)
(Photo: Getty Images)

NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm 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.[1]

It was an absurd rule from the start. Hard to identify and inconsistently called. And even when it was, it had half the fans crying “foul!”

The theory was…if a quarterback tries to abort a throw and loses the ball while bringing it back in, the resulting play was an incomplete pass instead of a fumble.

Still don’t get it? Don’t worry. The tuck rule is no longer. The NFL owners voted to do away with it during the owners meeting in Phoenix this week.

It may be gone, but the ghost of the tuck rule will haunt the Oakland Raiders long after the coffin is closed on it. The tuck rule turned the outcome of a Raiders playoff game against the New England Patriots in 2002 (now known as the Tuck Rule Game), when the tuck rule was called on a Tom Brady fumble. The Raiders had recovered the ball, but it was ruled an incomplete pass. The Patriots got the ball back, kicked a field goal to tie the game, and beat the Raiders with another field goal in overtime.

The Patriots declined to vote on the proposal to kill the tuck rule, which seems appropriate…as they would effectively be nullifying the outcome of a playoff game that led them to the Lombardi Trophy in Super Bowl XXXVI.

Funny enough…the other team to abstain from voting was the Washington Redskins, whose General Manager, Bruce Allen, was with the Raiders during the infamous game. The Pittsburgh Steelers were the only team that voted against killing the rule.

So…good riddance to the tuck rule. The least understood rule in professional sports.

Now, if only someone would explain to me this crown of helmet rule.

Out with one rule…in with another.



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