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2018 Preseason

Officiating video: new catch rules lead to more fumbles



In his final media tape of the preseason, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron highlighted a variety of plays to discuss before entering the regular season. These plays are summarized below:

Avoiding landing on the quarterback

In prior weeks, Riveron has discussed a new point of emphasis for this season, which involves quarterback protection from being landed on with full body weight by a defender. In a couple plays from the final week of the preseason, Riveron highlighted two plays where defenders tackled the quarterback without landing on him when they hit the ground. The defender in each play makes contact, then releases the quarterback after he releases the ball, causing him to hit the ground without having to land on the passer.

Legal contact on a defenseless receiver

In a couple more plays, Riveron showed ways to legally contact a receiver when he is a defenseless posture. In these plays, defensive backs tackled the receivers with their “head out, shoulder in,” and avoided striking him in the head or neck area. By wrapping the receiver, not leading with the helmet by lowering the head to initiate contact, and avoiding contacting the receiver’s head with any part of the body, there is no foul for illegally contacting a defenseless receiver.

Legal/illegal use-of-helmet contact

In the continuing saga of what is and is not a foul for lowering the head to initiate contact, a few more plays were shown to help illustrate what is legal and what is illegal when lowering the head is concerned. As discussed in earlier videos, it is not a foul to lower your head when you are bracing for contact from your opponent. It is also not a foul to lower your head to get underneath your opponent, as long as contact is not initiated with the helmet. However, it is a foul, as has been explained time and time again, to lower your helmet and initiate contact with your helmet and hit your opponent.

Intentional grounding with less than 2:00 in game

In the Bills-Bears game, an intentional grounding foul took place with 57 seconds remaining in the game. Buffalo, who committed the foul, had one timeout remaining at the time. By rule, when an action to conserve time takes place inside of two minutes in either half, a ten second runoff will be enforced. Prior to 2017, this rule only took effect after the one minute mark. Buffalo used their timeout in lieu of the runoff, which is allowed, by rule. Field judge Brad Rogers, while on his white hat tryout, enforced the foul and stated that Buffalo had used their timeout to avoid the runoff.

Illegal contact

Illegal contact is usually a point of emphasis in the preseason, and Riveron focused on a couple plays to illustrate the foul. It is a foul for a defender to make contact more than five yards in front of the line of scrimmage, while the quarterback is still in the pocket, and before the pass is thrown. If the quarterback leaves the pocket, there will be no foul for illegal contact. If the pass is thrown, then the contact occurs, this will be a foul for pass interference, if the pass is catchable.

Downing a punt after exiting the end zone

In the Jets-Eagles game, a New York special teamer downed a punt in the field of play, around the one-yard line. However, he had been in the end zone prior to downing the ball. By rule, in order to down a punt in the field of play after exiting the end zone, a player must re-establish himself in the field of play with both feet down. In the case of this player, he had not re-established, so although he landed in the field of play with the ball, it was correctly ruled a touchback on the field. If he had re-established with both feet in the field of play, the ball would have been legally downed at the one-yard line.

Multiple foul penalty enforcement options

In another play from Philadelphia, two fouls occurred on one play which gave the Eagles an interesting decision to make. The first foul was for a defensive lineman offside, and the second foul was for unnecessary roughness, for landing on the quarterback with full body weight on a sack. The reason why this was an interesting choice was because the spot of penalty enforcement is different for the two fouls. The defensive offside is enforced from the line of scrimmage, or the previous spot, and the unnecessary roughness is enforced from the succeeding spot, or, where the quarterback was sacked. This gave Philadelphia the option of a first and five from their own 30-yard line if they chose to enforce the offside penalty, or a first and ten from their own 27-yard line if they enforced the roughness penalty. This is an unusual instance where taking a 5-yard penalty and declining a 15-yard penalty would be advantageous.

Process of the catch under the new rules

Under the new process of the catch rule, which simplifies the process of the catch, was also a subject of discussion in Riveron’s last video of the preseason. In one play, a receiver was going to the ground while he was making a catch, but established control, got both feet down, and made an act common to the game, which in this case was a third step. When he hit the ground, he lost possession of the ball, which became a fumble. Prior to this season, this would be an incomplete pass. In another play, a receiver made a catch at the sideline, and maintained control and got two feet down in bounds, but while falling to the ground, did not have time to perform an act common to the game, which means he needs to hold the ball all the way to the ground. He did not, and line judge Derick Bowers correctly ruled an incomplete pass at the sideline.

Cam Filipe is a forensic scientist and has been involved in football officiating for 12 years. Cam is in his fourth season as a high school football official. This is his ninth season covering NFL officiating for Football Zebras.

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