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Officiating Dept. Video

Officiating video: letting fumbles play out, unsportsmanlike substitution tactics, roughing the passer, and use of the helmet



In this week’s media tape, senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron has highlighted more plays from last week, including reviewing a fumble that was let play out on the field, fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct for using deceitful substitution tactics, roughing the passer fouls, and fouls for use of the helmet.

Reviewing a fumble at the goal line

In a play from the Chiefs-Lions game, Walt Anderson’s crew ruled fumble on a goal line rush by Detroit, which was subsequently recovered by Kansas City and returned for a touchdown. Since this was a turnover, as well as a scoring play, the play was subject to automatic replay review. As the runner approached the goal line, he fell backward and extended the ball, and although he was surrounded by many other bodies, the ball coming loose is visible just before the runner contacts the ground. Riveron simply stated that the personnel at Art McNally Gameday Central were not sure if the runner was down prior to fumbling, but had to stick with the ruling on the field as there was no clear and obvious evidence provided that shows that the Detroit runner was down by contact before the fumble.

Deceitful substitution tactics

In two plays, Riveron illustrated fouls for unsportsmanlike conduct for using substitutions to deceive defenses and free up a receiver to run a fake field goal. In the first play, from the Jaguars-Broncos game, after an incomplete pass on third down, Jacksonville substituted their offense with their field goal personnel, but had a player come in off the sideline, and stood right at the sideline on the side hashmarks. Riveron explained that this play should be shut down for unsportsmanlike conduct as this substitution was deceptive, although a Denver player recognized the substitution.

In another play, from last season’s Week 17 game between the Lions and Packers, Detroit kicker Matt Prater threw a touchdown pass (which drew excitement from former punter Pat McAfee, who was broadcasting on Fox) to a receiver who had deceitfully stood at the sideline after substitutions following a third down play. Riveron also said that this play should have been stopped for unsportsmanlike conduct for a deceitful substitution. Although the Detroit receiver participated on third down, and may legally line up outside the numbers, his slow walk over to the sideline makes it look like he’s leaving the field, which Riveron is objecting to on this play.

This is apparently a new interpretation of the rule, and there is some legality to it according to Rule 5-2-11, which states:

ARTICLE 11. UNSPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT. Using entering substitutes, legally returning players, substitutes on sidelines, or withdrawn players to confuse opponents, or lingering by players leaving the field when being replaced by a substitute, is unsportsmanlike conduct. The offense is prevented from sending simulated substitutions onto the field toward its huddle and returning them to the sideline without completing the substitution in an attempt to confuse the defense.

As a result, following this excerpt, and Riveron’s assessment of the two plays, these types of tricks violate the rule and are subject to flags for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Roughing the passer

Two plays illustrated roughing the passer the fouls from last week. In the Buccaneers-Rams game, a Tampa Bay defender was flagged by referee Brad Rogers for roughing the passer, specifically, for landing with full body weight on the quarterback. On the play, the defender does exactly that: tackles the quarterback after the pass was released and lands on top of him without an effort to pull off of him. This prompted a flag from Rogers, and this was a correct call for roughing the passer.

In the second play, from Jacksonville-Denver, a Broncos defender tackled the quarterback below the knees and drove him down to the ground, which is a foul for roughing the passer. A defender cannot contact the quarterback at or below the knees when he is in a passing posture. This play did not result in a flag on the field.

Use of the helmet

In the final play of the week, from the Titans-Falcons game, a Tennessee defender lowered his head to initiate contact on an Atlanta receiver, lining up the runner, and hitting him square on with the crown of the helmet. As in other examples from the season, this is a foul for use of the helmet. Players, both on offense and defense, cannot line up their opponent and contact them by lowering their helmet to initiate contact. This play also did not result in a flag on the field.

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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