Week 8: Seahawks at Cowboys (video at 1:04)
After a timeout, the Cowboys were lined up to attempt a field goal. There was a mad scramble in the Seahawks backfield with too many players on the field, and the Seahawks called another timeout. The timeout should not have been called, but there oddly is no consequence.
“Seattle had called timeout, and we should not have granted the second timeout,” referee Carl Cheffers said in a postgame interview with a pool reporter. “There is no penalty for that. We just made a mistake, and we just put the ball back where it was and started things back up again without granting the timeout.”
It is not a penalty when a timeout is called when a team cannot do so (no timeouts remaining or after a charged timeout in the same dead-ball period) — the lone exception is an attempt to ice the kicker. While an argument could be made that the timeout did that, this is not technically the case, as the defense is clearly attempting to avoid the 12-man penalty. Rule 4-5-1:
Item 3. Consecutive Team Timeouts. Each team may be granted a charged team timeout during the same dead-ball period, but a second charged team timeout by either team during the same dead-ball period is prohibited. Such team timeouts may follow a Referee’s timeout or any automatic timeouts.
Item 4. Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.
Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout; instead, play will continue, and a penalty will be called, with customary enforcement. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced. See 12-3-1-x.
The note only applies to Item 4, not to all instances of a prohibited timeout attempt. The reference to Rule 12-31-1-x in the note reinforces that this applies to icing the kicker only.
The Seahawks are also not penalized for 12 men, because the snap never occurred, for obvious reasons. The Seahawks are also not charged with 12-in-formation, because a player was attempting to exit the field, not lined up against the offense with the snap imminent. It essentially is a wash.
The actions of the Seahawks certainly caused a situation that benefited them. However, the officials cannot undo the whistle, they cannot assess another timeout, and they cannot enforce an unsportsmanlike or too-many-men foul.
Look for this to show up on the Competition Committee’s agenda in the offseason.
Image: Cowboys coach Jason Garrett arguing about the two-timeout situation with line judge Tim Podraza. (Getty Images)
Pool report with referee Carl Cheffers
Cheffers: This is Carl Cheffers. We have a pool reporter at the Dallas vs. Seattle game on Nov. 1. The pool reporter is Clarence Hill with the Fort Worth Star-Telegram.
Q: The play in question was at the end of the first half with the timeout [by Seattle] and then 12 men on the field or a penalty for a second called timeout.
Cheffers: That’s a good question. There are two issues that we have. One is the timeout issue. Seattle had called timeout, and we should not have granted the second timeout. There is no penalty for that. We just made a mistake, and we just put the ball back where it was and started things back up again without granting the timeout.
The second issue on that pay is the defense with 12 men on the field. There are two types of [fouls for the] defense with 12 men on the field. The first type is where the defense, all 12 players, they are in formation; they are ready to go. No moving around; they are ready to go with the snap imminent. So the offense is on the ball and the snap could happen at any second. That’s the first scenario, and if that’s the scenario we judge it to be, then we would throw the flag, and we would kill the play at that point. The second scenario, and the scenario that happened in this case, is that we felt the defense was still milling about, trying to figure out where they were supposed to go. The 12th man realized he was not supposed to be on the field and he was making a legitimate effort to get off the field. In this case, it would have been a live-ball foul had he not made it off the field. We were going to give him every opportunity to make it off the field whether the snap went or not. When the snap went, it would have been: “was he on or was he off the field?”.
Q: I guess the discrepancy is, Seattle called the second timeout, which you granted or didn’t grant, because they felt they were going to get flagged for 12 men on the field. So, it’s kind of double jeopardy at a certain point.
Cheffers: It is double jeopardy. We just have to handle the two issues separately. The timeout, we should not have granted. We put the play back, restored the play to where it was prior to the timeout being called. The defense with 12 men, we ruled he was trying to get off the field. We were going to allow him every opportunity to get off, waiting for the snap to happen. Obviously the snap did not happen. At the time the timeout was erroneously granted, it was not, by rule, 12 men on the field, just yet. We were going to allow him to get off the field.