Football Zebras exclusive
Game officials will have a heightened sense of awareness regarding field goal holders attempting to use a small object upon which to place the ball when holding for a field goal, after such a practice was observed in a Week 14 game.
In the NFC East clash between the Eagles and Giants, Philadelphia emergency holder Britain Covey, who pressed into service when punter Arryn Siposs was injured earlier in the game, was seen picking up a small white object from the field after a field goal attempt by kicker Jake Elliott. When the tape is rolled back, the object was seen directly under the ball when the snap was received, and was subsequently kicked forward naturally during the field goal attempt.
This was not detected by the crew on the field. However, by rule, this is unsportsmanlike conduct. According to Rule 11-4-5, “No article of any type may be placed on the field, or used in any manner, to assist a player in the execution of a field goal and/or [extra-point] Try attempt.”
This maneuver is just the newest of a wave of illegal strategies that have been seen in 2022 in attempts to improve the kicking game, including wiping down a wet field before a field goal and using a holder and a tee on a kickoff.
While, according to league sources, officials were made aware of this tactic on a Dec. 21 training tape, this is not the first time we’ve seen it in practice. In a 2020 Week 2 game, Chiefs holder Tommy Townsend can be seen apparently picking up a small object from the field after a game-winning 58-yard field goal by kicker Harrison Butker.
Exactly two seasons later, in Week 2 of this season, Lions holder Jack Fox did the same thing: picking up a small white object after extra-point and field goal attempts by kicker Michael Badgley in a game against the Commanders. Before Commanders fans cry foul, their holder Tress Way did the same thing for kicker Joey Slye in the same game.
Other teams have most likely tried this illegal strategy, which begs the question: why are officials being informed about this now?
Mechanically, it would be appropriate to warn a head coach if a kicker/holder tandem is observed attempting this tactic. Either the referee or umpire, who line up behind the kicker on a field goal attempt, should be glancing at the spot directly in front of the holder for any foreign object. If either official notices something being placed down by the holder, they should simply walk over and pick it up, and inform the coach following the play. Preventative officiating should prevail and officials should attempt to thwart this behavior before the ball is snapped.