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A quick look at the NFL’s snow-removal rules

Eagles AP

With multiple Week 14 games featuring frozen precipitation and an open-air New Jersey Super Bowl looming, it makes sense to make sense of the NFL’s rules regarding in-game snow removal.

The official rulebook never mentions the term snow.  The league’s game operations manual addresses what is and isn’t permitted when it comes to snow removal.

For starters, and to clear up some lingering confusion regarding the situation in Philly during Sunday’s game between the Lions and Eagles, the field can be plowed at halftime.  As explained by ESPN.com, that didn’t happen on Sunday because there wasn’t enough space to put the multiple inches of snow that had fallen during the first half of the game, and not enough time to clear the playing surface.

During a game, the following rules apply, as quoted to PFT by the league office:

1.  Where possible, brushes or other appropriate clearing devices should be used to keep sidelines, goal lines, and end lines as clear as possible.

2.  Under no circumstances will a Referee permit clearing by the grounds crew of a spot for a PAT or field goal attempt. It is permissible for players to clear such spots by hand or foot.

3.  It is permissible to clear the 10-yard intervals, sidelines, goal lines, and end lines away from the direction of an offensive team during play.

3.  If an offensive team is inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, it is not permissible to clear any 10-yard intervals behind such team that would give it a potential open spot for placement of a field goal or PAT attempt.

4.  If an offensive team is going in for a possible score, the goal line can be cleared only if there is doubt on the part of the game Referee as to the location of the goal line. If it is visible, no clearing will be permitted.

The harder it snows, the more important these rules become.  Clearing of snow can happen during a game by the grounds crew, especially when the action is occurring at the other end of the field.

Presumably, the NFL will have extra help available in early February, if/when (when) it snows at MetLife Stadium for the first open-air, cold-weather Super Bowl.

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38 Responses to “A quick look at the NFL’s snow-removal rules”
  1. thestrategyexpert says: Dec 12, 2013 11:17 AM

    In the Lions game I think they invited fans out of the stands during that TO to go help with the snow. There was an army of people out there clearing way for that kick that ended up getting blocked.

  2. upperdecker19 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:20 AM

    Or just postpone the game to Tuesday like they randomly did in the past

  3. footballfan58 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:21 AM

    Let the blizzards begin! Love football in the snow!!

  4. fanofevilempire says: Dec 12, 2013 11:21 AM

    I hope there is snow for the Super Bowl, it will be fun to watch.

    NY football fan

  5. granadafan says: Dec 12, 2013 11:24 AM

    There’s no available space on the sidelines anymore because teams allow so many non-players/staff on the sidelines now. They’re full of ex-players, VIPs, pseudo celebrities, etc.

    Here’s hoping the Super Bowl is a repeat of the snow game in Philly so we can once and for all put an end to the farce of allowing the biggest game to be in cold weather stadiums. Just because teams were able to fleece the taxpayers out of money for lavish palaces, doesn’t mean they deserve a Super Bowl.

  6. harrisonhits2 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:25 AM

    Guys running across the field quickly with the blowers I saw one of the grounds crews using last week makes sense.

    But during play “away from the direction of offensive play” sounds like a recipe for disaster to me. Can’t wait for the first INT being run back who is obstructed by one of the grounds crew who happened to be in the middle of the field “away from the direction of offensive play” clearing some snow.

  7. harrisonhits2 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:26 AM

    Sorry meant to say I saw guys running across with blowers quickly between plays.

  8. zam0854 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:28 AM

    No where does it state Giants, Cowboys, or Redskin fans make a hell of a great snowball target…but there’s more issues it fails to address as well.

  9. johnelwayishorsefaced says: Dec 12, 2013 11:28 AM

    I’d say the main problem with the game in Philly was the refs calling two phantom penalties on the Lions that changed the outcome of the game.
    Then we find out yesterday that Jeremy Ross, Detroit’s return man who ran back a kick and a punt for touchdowns and had a great tackle on punt coverage, loses NFC special teams player of the week to a kicker who kicked 4 field goals.
    Something very strange is going on here. I’m not exactly sure who’s pulling the strings but our revenge will come when we win the division and make the playoffs. If the league allows it.

  10. kd75 says: Dec 12, 2013 11:35 AM

    Was it Ron Meyer who sent out a mini snow plow to clear a spot for a game winning FG for the Pats back in the 1980s?

  11. lbijake says: Dec 12, 2013 11:55 AM

    Super Bowl in the snow with a wind chill factor near zero. Lombardi, Landry, Bart Starr, Jerry Kramer, real football, sure beats a dome. Plus I will be in Living Room with friends, beer and pizza.

  12. SparkyGump says: Dec 12, 2013 11:58 AM

    I can only imagine the people who paid $5,000.00 per seat at this year’s Superbowl freezing their posteriors off. If we get anything like the snow we got at the Philly game, I’ll bet you’l see half or more of the seats empty with people crammed in the concourse watching the game on monitors paying $10 for a cup of coffee trying to keep warm. Lol.

  13. jbaxt says: Dec 12, 2013 12:04 PM

    Peypey sucks in the snow. He has a good game against the mighty TN Titans and all if a sudden he’s good in cold weather. What is he now? 10-11 in games under 20 degrees now. So he’s like the Oakland Raiders of QB’s? Pretty sure that record sucks no matter how you spin it.

  14. steelersaregodsteam says: Dec 12, 2013 12:07 PM

    Snow makes for good football. The quality from last week is proof of that.

  15. fartsmella says: Dec 12, 2013 12:14 PM

    Patriots coach Ron Meyer ordered snowplow operator Mark Henderson to clear a spot on the field specifically for placekicker John Smith. At first, no one had thought it suspicious, assuming that the plow would go straight across, and allow for a more accurate measurement (which turned out to be 33 yards). Instead, the plow veered left, directly in front of the goal post, giving Smith a clean spot from which to kick. Matt Cavanaugh held for the kick. Miami coach Don Shula protested furiously but the field goal was good and the Patriots won the game by the final score of 3–0.

  16. trytobnimble says: Dec 12, 2013 12:14 PM

    It actually wasn’t cold at the Philly Lions game. Around 30 ish degrees. Wet snow. Not bone chilling cold like some games in the northeast.

  17. fanothegame says: Dec 12, 2013 12:30 PM

    Quick question…
    In a game such as the one played in Philly this week, what constitutes the “ground”? For instance, if a pass is “incomplete” but drops into the snow and doesn’t sink to the ground, is it still a live ball? If someone is being tackled in deep snow and their knee touches the top of the snow but not the ground are they down?
    Just curious…

  18. thegreatgabbert says: Dec 12, 2013 12:41 PM

    When the kid showed up at Jeff Lurie’s door offering to shovel his sidewalk for five bucks, Jeff said “Sure, and when you’re done there I’ll drive you over to the Stadium to do it too.”.

  19. bucfansouthtampa says: Dec 12, 2013 12:44 PM

    As it was 83 degrees here in Tampa during the Bucs-Bills game, everyone had to take a water break and hydrate, including the fans.
    To give good contrast, NFL Network should have shown a split screen between the players in Philly sitting on the sidelines covered in overcoats – earmuffs in front of the heaters and those in Tampa sitting down gulping gatorade and in front of the portable A/C units.
    There is a reason we all live in Florida. But I am speaking too soon. The high today is only 63.

  20. aljack88 says: Dec 12, 2013 12:45 PM

    kd75 says:
    Dec 12, 2013 11:35 AM
    Was it Ron Meyer who sent out a mini snow plow to clear a spot for a game winning FG for the Pats back in the 1980s?
    ——————————————————-
    Yes it was. Classic moment. Jon Smith was the kicker.

    It was not illegal then, but rules committee member and Miami HC Don Shula was so upset that during the off season meetings, the rules were made about what and when can be used in regards to removing snow during a game.

  21. imjinrat says: Dec 12, 2013 12:46 PM

    I know dam well there was a guy out there with a shovel in the Baltimore game clearing away snow exactly where the kicker was telling him to. What’s up with that?

  22. slobmykolb says: Dec 12, 2013 12:47 PM

    Granadafan said;

    Here’s hoping the Super Bowl is a repeat of the snow game in Philly so we can once and for all put an end to the farce of allowing the biggest game to be in cold weather stadiums. Just because teams were able to fleece the taxpayers out of money for lavish palaces, doesn’t mean they deserve a Super Bowl.

    Most football fans love games in the snow it is reminiscent of old school hard-nosed football and I for one hope there are more superbowls in these climates.

  23. hawkforlife says: Dec 12, 2013 12:50 PM

    Can’t wait for the first INT being run back who is obstructed by one of the grounds crew who happened to be in the middle of the field

    Yup and his name might be Tomlin. Wouldn’t that be a hoot.

  24. justintuckrule says: Dec 12, 2013 12:54 PM

    To the NJ/NY haters…you actually better pray it DOESN’T snow and just becomes another ho-hum SB. If the conditions are anything like Philly-Det, more eyes will be glued to that game than any SB in history times 2. Ratings drive the league, not whether a few stuck up corporate stiffs choose to give their tickets to the locals.

    If this becomes a “Weather Bowl”, you’ll see the committee strike down the antiquated SB warm weather clauses and open up our grand game to the rest of the NFL cities who deserve it. I for one pray this happens. Dome games stink and I’d love for nothing more than to see SBs played in GB, Chi, Seattle, Buff, Philly, NE (Boston) etc….all truly great football towns!

  25. tvguy22 says: Dec 12, 2013 12:54 PM

    3. It is permissible to clear the 10-yard intervals, sidelines, goal lines, and end lines away from the direction of an offensive team during play.

    ————————————————

    But if Eli is the quarterback, keep your head on a swivel because a pick-six could be coming your way at any moment.

  26. martinslunchtray says: Dec 12, 2013 12:59 PM

    Football is cold, wet, hot, windy… You pansies that are into the arena football are more than welcome to leave and watch that instead!!!

  27. 2ruefan says: Dec 12, 2013 1:23 PM

    My favorite “snow game” moment was when Fran Tarkenton threw some snowballs back into the stands at a Dad whom he saw making snowballs and handing them to his son to throw at the Vikings’ players as they were leaving the field through the tunnel. Classic stuff…

  28. 2ruefan says: Dec 12, 2013 1:36 PM

    Rule number three (as it is written/stated) actually contradicts rule number two. To be clearer, rule three should stipulate “unless such clearing is done by players by hand or foot”. The vikings were clearing their spot by hand when inside the 20 in the Ravens game.

    2. Under no circumstances will a Referee permit clearing by the grounds crew of a spot for a PAT or field goal attempt. It is permissible for players to clear such spots by hand or foot.

    3. If an offensive team is inside its opponent’s 20-yard line, it is not permissible to clear any 10-yard intervals behind such team that would give it a potential open spot for placement of a field goal or PAT attempt.

  29. stoopidfool says: Dec 12, 2013 1:37 PM

    The SB should just be in Vegas every year

  30. stercuilus65 says: Dec 12, 2013 1:48 PM

    granadafan says:

    Here’s hoping the Super Bowl is a repeat of the snow game in Philly so we can once and for all put an end to the farce of allowing the biggest game to be in cold weather stadiums. Just because teams were able to fleece the taxpayers out of money for lavish palaces, doesn’t mean they deserve a Super Bowl

    ———————————————————————

    But warm weather teams that fleeced the taxpayers (and they all did) do deserve a Super Bowl? That is a farce.

  31. gooseusaf1 says: Dec 12, 2013 1:57 PM

    Didn’t see it but was the special teams player of the week at least the kicker who broke the nfl record? If that’s the case I say congrats. He could have lost it to the eagles punter who has won 2stpow awards.

  32. 1rockyracoon says: Dec 12, 2013 1:59 PM

    The best games in sports are football games in the snow. Granted, I don’t want a blizzard in the upcoming game, but few inches would really add something to the game. Good teams are able to adapt to the conditions. The reason the Lions lost in Sunday was not because if the snow or the referees. They lost because it was a big game and they did what the franchise always does–lose.

  33. leroyquimby says: Dec 12, 2013 2:39 PM

    If people can stand for 10+ hours in Times Square every December 31st to watch a ball drop they certainly can sit for 3-4 hours to watch the biggest event in American sports in the same place.

  34. johnodocks says: Dec 12, 2013 2:46 PM

    5. In case of Super Bowl snow, Commissioner Goodell and other NFL execs are required to swap their luxury box seats with the schumcks in the upper deck.

  35. jbeagles23 says: Dec 12, 2013 2:48 PM

    Every city deserves a Super Bowl. Much rather watch a sb in ny than a dome in nwo

  36. wrdtoyrmama says: Dec 12, 2013 3:00 PM

    First off, its just dumb to be playing a SB in an open air stadium in the northeast or Midwest in February. Even Terry Bradshaw knows that.

    Second, with as many TV timeouts as there are in football, its hard to believe any major northern stadium doesn’t have a couple ATV’s or some vehicle that could plow equal parts of opposite sides of the field during the timeouts.

    Its 2013, not 1935, this is a billion dollar industry, get it done.

  37. b58hustler says: Dec 12, 2013 5:51 PM

    The first domes were all built in the south ,maybe to keep the sun off the players to protect their delicate skin. Then a few northern teams built some to attract the super bowl. It didn’t do much good becaus the powers- that -be still want the game played in the south and west for increased profits. The game was invented as an outdoor,cold weather sport and if the pansies can’t take it STAY HOME.

  38. TD Hawk says: Dec 12, 2013 6:03 PM

    I favor Texas A&M Rules, play it where it lies. Don’t clear a thing, not even the lines, guess where the end zone and first downs are. Wouldn’t that be fun(ny)?

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