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12 men in formation now stops play



2012 rule changes

There’s a new rule in the NFL this year, thanks in part to a play in the waning moments of last year’s Super Bowl between the New England Patriots and the New York Giants.

The Giants accidentally ran a play with 12 men on the field.  The penalty back then was a flag at the snap, five yard penalty from the previous spot, and repeat the down.  That was all well and good for the Patriots, but the play ate up precious seconds.  So, in the long run, it could be successfully argued that the 12th man foiled the Patriots play AND ate time off the clock.

So for 2012, the NFL has a new rule.  If the officials detect 12 men on the field on the defense and that 12th man is not attempting to get off the field, they will blow the whistle, kill the clock, and administer the five-yard penalty as a dead-ball foul.  This rule does not apply to a defender who is attempting to get off the field, but is still on the field at the time of the snap.  In that scenario, it will be a live ball foul and the exiting 12th player will not hinder the offense.  This rule takes away an unfair advantage to the defense.

It will be interesting to see how many times this “New York Giants” rule will come into play this year.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"