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Offense not allowed to quick-sub and quick-snap



Rules allow defense to bring in late subs

There was an interesting play in Week 9 that highlighted quick snap rules.  In the Broncos-Patriots game, Tom Brady and company rushed the field on a fourth-and-one situation as the punt team sprinted off (video).  The goal was to catch the Broncos with too many men on the field or to run a fourth down play with the special teams unit on the field and the defensive stars on the sideline.

The NFL has rules in place to prevent the offense from getting this unfair advantage, which were largely put into effect with the rise of no-huddle offense in 1989.  Rule 5-2-10 states:

If a substitution is made by the offense, the offense shall not be permitted to snap the ball until the defense has been permitted to respond with its substitutions. While in the process of a substitution (or simulated substitution), the offense is prohibited from rushing quickly to the line of scrimmage and snapping the ball in an obvious attempt to cause a defensive foul (i.e., too many men on the field). If the offense makes a late substitution, the following occurs:

a) The Umpire will stand over the ball until the Referee deems that the defense has had a reasonable time to complete its substitutions.

b) If a play takes place and a defensive foul for too many players on the field results, no penalties will be enforced, except for personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct, and the down will be replayed. At this time, the Referee will notify the head coach that any further use of this tactic will result in a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Note: The quick-snap rule does not apply after the two-minute warning of either half, or if there is not a substitution by the offense.

c) On a fourth-down punting situation, the Referee and the Umpire will not allow a quick snap that prevents the defense from having a reasonable time to complete its substitutions. This applies throughout the entire game.

d) If the play clock expires before the defense has completed its substitution, it is delay of game by the offense.

In the era of no-huddle, hurry-up offense, this definitely takes away an unfair advantage for the offense.  While the defense cannot lollygag in making their substitutions, this rule (especially with the delay of game onus still on the offense) does away with the offense rushing on and off the sidelines to catch the defense out of formation or with too many men on the field.

Watch the sideline officials, the referee and the umpire when the offense brings a substitute on.  The wings and the referee will make fists with their hands and hold their arms out to the side.  The umpire will stand over the ball and not move into position until the referee motions him to do so.

This is a very straightforward rule so it surprised me a bit that the Patriots blatantly tried to sneak this one past Walt Anderson’s crew.  Anderson and his crew know the rules, though, and were having none of it.

Image: Patriots quarterback Tom Brady is prevented from snapping the ball by umpire Jeff Rice.

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?"