NFL not considering rule change on fumbles through the end zone

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The rule that says a fumble into the end zone and out of bounds goes to the defense on the 20-yard line seems illogical. But it’s not going anywhere.

Among the many rules changes the league will consider at next week’s owners’ meeting, there’s nothing about the fumble touchback rule, which many fans have advocated changing so that the ball goes back to the offense at the spot where the ball was fumbled.

Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said the play doesn’t happen often and the rule doesn’t need to be changed.

“There were eight instances this year, three the year before and three the year before that,” McKay said. “We did not believe it merited a proposal.”

Eventually, one of those instances may cost a team a big game, and the ensuing outcry may lead the NFL to change the rule. But for now, that rule — which has been around for decades at all levels of football — doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.

59 responses to “NFL not considering rule change on fumbles through the end zone

  1. boo. If any rule needs changed, it is this one. Every time it happens it just seems wrong. Come on NFL and owners. Do something about this rule.

  2. Doesn’t merit a change because it doesn’t happen that often? That’s some ivory tower thinking right there.

    All it takes is one time ever to need a rule change.

    These guys act like it’s hard to debate this and that their time it takes to discuss and vote on this issue is too much of a bother.

    Just imagine a Superbowl being decided by something like this. The NFL would have a nasty problem on its hands.

    Then we can all point back to this, that it was completely knowable and desired, with an easy fix, but they decided stupidly to not address it because their time was too important.

  3. ““There were eight instances this year, three the year before and three the year before that,” McKay said. “We did not believe it merited a proposal.”

    Uh, this is the same rule committee that is considering an overtime rule change to address the instance where a team scores a field goal, then intercepts the ball on the next drive, fumbles and the other team scores a TD. Its NEVER happened before, but its a good idea to address it. But yet they don’t want to change end zone fumbles because its to uncommon? B.S.

  4. I agree not to change it. If you change it, it goes against the nature of the game. You take a big risk reaching for the endzone with one hand. But if you cross the plane, automatic td. So it can go for or against a team. Its a touchback plain and simple. It may seem weird but those are the natural laws of football boundies and endzones.

  5. It is a touchback…don’t fumble in a high stakes are…Its been a rule since the beginning of time…football time that is…

  6. I translated their stated reason for not changing the rule as “We just don’t want to.”

  7. How about protect the ball near the goal line???

    Dumb to change this rule. Whenever someone complains about it it just reminds me about how weak this league has become. Don’t showboat near the goal line. If it’s one more thing for offenses to have to think about, it adds more strategy to the game and that is a GOOD thing.

  8. So the one rule they 100% should change because it doesn’t make sense and swings momentum wildly the other way then it comes into play, and they are doing nothing. Sounds like standard NFL

  9. “How often does the “Josh McDaniels” rule come up? Yet they want to add that rule.”

    As far as I know the Colts are the only NFL team to ever proclaim someone their head coach before the contract has that coaches’ signature on it.

    So of course Irsay cries like a 3 year old about it and gets a rules change.

    As to the fumble into the end zone rule I like it the way it is. If you just hand it back to the offense it takes away any chance the defense might have recovered it. Protect the ball close to the other team’s goal line and you won’t have to worry about this.

  10. It is a just rule. Break the plane with the ball, and it is moot. I would be livid if some team fumbled out of end zone, and they gave them the ball back, 1st and Goal, at the 1? Even college doesn’t do that, and college football has some really dumb rules.

  11. The problem with the rule is not the fumbles where the player loses the ball, its the cases where the official says the player didn’t have solid control of the ball at the moment he crossed the line, but still holds onto the ball.

    This happened in the Jets-Patriots game where Austen Sefarian-Jenkins sort of bobbled the ball when running across the goal line. He retained control but Al Riveron said he didnt have full control at the moment he crossed.
    Rather than an incomplete, or down at the 1, it was ruled a fumble.
    That I think is a bad rule.

  12. Leave the damn game alone for crying out loud . NFL already ruined kick offs and cost my Steelers a win with the catch rule , you can’t even touch a quarterback anymore . Who remembers the genius season when they had the force out rule for wide receivers . I hate this crap

  13. The committee is illogical. If you identify an issue that happens during the season, why not consider it for changing. It’s a silly rule that makes zero sense and it happens every year. How can a defense be awarded possession of the ball on a non 4th down play when they never actually possessed it? They are considering changing the overtime rules for a rule that has never happened, but won’t consider it for one that happens multiple times ever year.

  14. I think they should treat fumbles through the end zone just like fumbles out of bounds. The offense keeps the ball at the one yard line instead of losing possession. Only if the defense recovers the fumble will the offense lose possession. of course it makes too much sense for them to ever adopt it. lol

  15. Where does the ball go?
    What down do you make it.
    What if it happens on a 60 yard run versus punching it in from the two.
    ——
    Those answers don’t take more than 1 minutes to figure out
    It is spotted at the spot of the fumble, the team with last possession of the ball maintains possession of the ball and the down is the next down at the end of the previous play.
    No different than if a ball is fumbled out of bounds on any other given play.

  16. Don’t call a play where the player never loses possession of a ball a fumble (Sefarian-Jenkins). Problem solved.

    This past year was the most over-officious year I’ve ever seen.

  17. briank1ne says:
    March 23, 2018 at 1:40 pm
    I agree not to change it. If you change it, it goes against the nature of the game. You take a big risk reaching for the endzone with one hand. But if you cross the plane, automatic td. So it can go for or against a team. Its a touchback plain and simple. It may seem weird but those are the natural laws of football boundies and endzones.
    ———————————————————–
    How does it go against the nature of the game? If a running back fumbles the ball out of bounds and no one recovers it, the offense gets the ball at the spot of the fumble. Why does the presence of the end zone change this?

    And if something has happened 14 times in three seasons, it needs to be addressed!

  18. Most of the time, these fumbles are because of carelessness with the football usually because someone is reaching with the ball. Do not protect this habit and allow players to become more careless. Make them protect the ball like they should.

  19. So let me get this strait, they change an overtime rule that has never happened, would probably never happen but not change a stupid rule that does happen? I don’t often agree with Florio but i know he has been banging this drum for a while because the rule is stupid. Another day in the halls of the NFL.

  20. Not only do I not have a problem with the rule, I actually like it. The one exception was the ASJ play from last year, which probably should have been a TD anyway (a similar TD in the super bowl to Clement was allowed).

    However, “it only happened 14 times” is not a valid reason to not address something.

  21. The rule seems perfectly logical to me. The end zone belongs to the team defending it. If the ball goes out of bounds in the end zone without the offense possessing it in the end zone, the ball belongs to the defense.

  22. If someone can explain to me why possession is awarded to the defense when fumbling out of the endzone, but not on any other fumble out of bounds. I’d love to hear it.
    Otherwise this should be treated as any other forward fumble that goes out of bounds. Offense (or last team with possession) maintains possession at the spot of the fumble.

  23. “The rule seems perfectly logical to me. The end zone belongs to the team defending it. If the ball goes out of bounds in the end zone without the offense possessing it in the end zone, the ball belongs to the defense.”
    —-
    So in every other instance the defense must actually possess the ball to gain possession, but in this instance, it’s just awarded. That is in no way logical. On every other part of the field, a fumble can is awarded to the team that possessed it last, when it goes out of bounds. The endzone doesn’t “belong” to the defending team. It is the portion of the field the offense needs to gain, to score a TD. in that instance, if a ball is fumbled in the endzone it should immediately be awarded to the defense, since they that portion of the field belongs to them.

  24. The reason the rule is there is to keep the wiley old veterans, and short-sighted rookies, from purposely fumbling near the goal-line in the hope that his teammate recovers it for a TD. If you change the rule we’ll get all kinds of bush-league antics near the goal-line and it will cheapen the game.

  25. Place the ball at the previous spot with loss of down; possession maintained by the team that fumbled. Want to keep the “wiley old veterans” from their shenanigans, if you’re on defense, either recover the thing or slap it out of bounds — as it’s always been.

  26. How does it go against the nature of the game? If a running back fumbles the ball out of bounds and no one recovers it, the offense gets the ball at the spot of the fumble. Why does the presence of the end zone change this?
    ____

    It goes against the nature of the game because the nature of the game is that the end zone and field of play have different sets of rules attached. It’s basically what the entire sport is based on.

    Fumble out of bounds, play is over. Fumble out your own end zone, safety. Fumble out the opposition end zone, touch back.

    So why in this one single instance should the end zone and field of play suddenly have the same rules?

  27. When you get sacked at the 50 yard line, does the defense get 2 points? No, because it’s not the end zone. When you call a fair catch at the 10 yard line, do you get a touch back? No, because it’s not the end zone. When you make a reception at the 20 yard line, is that a touchdown? No, because it’s not the end zone.

    This isn’t complicated.

  28. How can this be? The running back charges toward the end zone, and then dives out of bounds, and somehow you idiots signal TD. What in the hell does the pylon have to do with it.
    Main problem is a bunch of brain dead millionaires, who never played, trying yo make money. Idiots.

  29. So if a punt returner fields the ball at the 5 yard line, runs side to side trying to make a play, and ends up getting tackled in the end zone, should that not be a safety? “Oh well he was tackled just the same as he would be in the field of play, what’s the difference?” Should the offense retain the ball and get a mulligan from the 1 yard line in that situation? Or should the returner just have the sense not to backtrack and get caught making a stupid unnecessary play like that?

    Same thing with the Derek Carr fumble pictured above. He already had the first down, the Raiders would’ve been 1st & goal with 4 easy opportunities to win the game. But he got desperate, he got reckless, and he failed to hold on to the ball at the most crucial part of the field. But we should be like “oh that’s ok Derek, here you go. No consequences, just take the ball back and try again”

    Give me a break. I thought this was a competitive game based on execution, not getting mulligans for unforced errors.

  30. I find only people who didn’t play very much football growing up want this rule to be changed. Sorry but the stakes are higher down at the goal line. You can’t simply fumble the ball into the opponents end zone and expect to get back. This isn’t like any other place on the field, this is where points are scored. To say the end zone is like any other place is just ignorance. Of course there are different rules there.

  31. Getty Images
    The rule that says a fumble into the end zone and out of bounds goes to the defense on the 20-yard line seems illogical.

    Illogical, you keep using that word and I do not think you know what it means. It’s the END ZONE. Not the field of play. Not understanding this is the definition of thick. Or let me put it another way, if NE were to lose a fumble out of the end zone that rule would be added to the Ten Commandments. Every rule change except for safety items has been a crybaby reaction to a loss.

  32. halfcentaur says:
    March 23, 2018 at 2:54 pm
    When you get sacked at the 50 yard line, does the defense get 2 points? No, because it’s not the end zone. When you call a fair catch at the 10 yard line, do you get a touch back? No, because it’s not the end zone. When you make a reception at the 20 yard line, is that a touchdown? No, because it’s not the end zone.

    This isn’t complicated.

    Perfect explanation, which means about 60% of commenters won’t agree.

  33. ““There were eight instances this year, three the year before and three the year before that,” McKay said. “We did not believe it merited a proposal.””

    the league is fumbling this one … are they waiting for 20 or more instances in a year to address the rule?

  34. “But for now, that rule — which has been around for decades at all levels of football — doesn’t appear to be going anywhere.”

    And you just shot down your own argument for changing the rule. We’ve somehow survived decades at all levels of football without this being a problem. Don’t fumble.

  35. arclight1972 says: “This happened in the Jets-Patriots game where Austen Sefarian-Jenkins sort of bobbled the ball when running across the goal line. He retained control but Al Riveron said he didnt have full control at the moment he crossed.”
    ————————–

    You left out the crucial parts: ASJ bobbled the ball BEFORE crossing the goal line and didn’t control the ball until after his shoulder was touching out-of-bounds”

  36. thudsp says: “So let me get this strait, they change an overtime rule that has never happened, would probably never happen but not change a stupid rule that does happen? I don’t often agree with Florio but i know he has been banging this drum for a while because the rule is stupid. Another day in the halls of the NFL.”
    —————

    The overtime rule proposal is a LOOPHOLE that is not consistent with every down football (ie calling an interception immediately a play dead when it’s not). This end zone fumble rule is consistent with other end zone rules (safety, punt touchbacks, etc).

  37. for the love of God can we please stop with the rule changes?

    How about we just reset all rules back to what they were on Jan 1, 1980 and leave things alone.

  38. “The reason the rule is there is to keep the wiley old veterans, and short-sighted rookies, from purposely fumbling near the goal-line in the hope that his teammate recovers it for a TD. ”

    That’s the Holy Roller rule. Teams currently cannot score a TD by recovering their own fumble in the end zone.

    And really, it has nothing to do with balls being lost out of bounds in the end zone, except that both situations include fumbling and the end zone. But one involves recovery of the football while the other does not.

    It’s a silly rule because, as others have pointed out, there’s no reason to reward the defense for something they didn’t do.

  39. noringsforvikings says:
    March 23, 2018 at 2:14 pm
    briank1ne says:
    March 23, 2018 at 1:40 pm
    I agree not to change it. If you change it, it goes against the nature of the game. You take a big risk reaching for the endzone with one hand. But if you cross the plane, automatic td. So it can go for or against a team. Its a touchback plain and simple. It may seem weird but those are the natural laws of football boundies and endzones.
    ———————————————————–
    How does it go against the nature of the game? If a running back fumbles the ball out of bounds and no one recovers it, the offense gets the ball at the spot of the fumble. Why does the presence of the end zone change this?

    And if something has happened 14 times in three seasons, it needs to be addressed!
    _________________________

    Here is the easiest explanation…The endzones are the “property” of the defending team and the area between the endzone lines is neutral territory. When a fumble goes out of bounds in neutral territory, the last team to possess the ball maintains possession. If, however, the ball goes out of bounds in an area that is the “property” of one team….that team would gain possession of the ball. If the team in possession were to fumble the ball into, and out of, their own endzone, the safety rule would apply.

  40. I see lots of whining on this site about this rule, not a lot of better suggestions. The only change I could see would be to make it similar to a touchback where the team would get the ball back, but on say the 20 or the 35 with a loss of down. There must be a severe penalty for losing control of the football in the endzone.

  41. whispersd says: “It’s a silly rule because, as others have pointed out, there’s no reason to reward the defense for something they didn’t do.”
    —————

    Not true. They defended the endzone and caused the fumble. As others said – the offense needs to protect the ball.

  42. It’s a silly rule because, as others have pointed out, there’s no reason to reward the defense for something they didn’t do.
    ____

    You mean like when the offense fumbles out of bounds in the field of play without recovering and is still awarded possession? They’re the ones who dropped it, they did nothing to get it back, yet they’re essentially “rewarded” for something they didn’t do.

    So again, what’s the only difference here? The fact that THE END ZONE AND THE FIELD OF PLAY ARE NOT TREATED THE SAME IN ANY SINGLE PHASE OF THE GAME. That’s what. If you make a catch at the 1 yard line and go out, then it’s out at the 1 yard line. If you catch the ball just inside the end zone, it’s a touchdown. Same concept applies with fumbles. If you fumble it out 1 yard short of the end zone, it’s a dead ball. If you fumble it out 1 yard inside the end zone, it’s a touch back. This logic should be very easy to follow.

    Name me ONE SINGLE PHASE of the game where the end zone and field of play are treated the same, then ask yourself why this one play should be any different from the rest of the game.

    End zones are hallowed ground. It’s kind of the premise of the entire game.

  43. You left out the crucial parts: ASJ bobbled the ball BEFORE crossing the goal line and didn’t control the ball until after his shoulder was touching out-of-bounds”
    =============================

    Exactly. I’ll never ceased to be amazed by what people will deny or ignore to construct their argument. There’s clear video evidence that a defender knocked the ball out Sefarian-Jenkins’ grasp as he was running for end zone. There’s a picture of the ball in the air and both of his hands are off of it. That’s a fumble. Yet people claim he only “sort of bobbled it” or never lost possession.

    They can try and argue that the rule is too punitive and needs to be changed, but don’t just make things up because they don’t like the rule.

  44. This is why a lot of fans frustrated with the NFL from the league side of things.
    It’s almost a universally condemned rule that basically everyone agrees makes no sense.

    And their excuse to not change something like that is that it doesnt happen often…the EXACT reason that makes it so easy to change.

  45. “Eventually, one of those instances may cost a team a big game, and the ensuing outcry may lead the NFL to change the rule”

    Okay. What about the other half of the fans? The ones whose team won a game because of this rule staying the way it is?

    Earl Thomas has turned this rule into a weapon.

  46. I remember the first time I saw this rule applied in a game sometime in the 80’s or 90’s and it was against my team. I was mad but when the emotions wore off and I thought about it, the rule actually made sense. I cannot think of a good reason the offense should keep the ball if they fumble it out of the endzone before reaching the goal line. All they have to do is break the plane without fumbling and it is a TD. I am glad they are not changing it, it is already to easy for offenses in today’s NFL.

  47. The rule needed is when a running back TE or receiver crosses the line he needs control all the way to the ground.. how many balls have come lose across the goal line yet we worry what is a catch and call this a TD.

  48. The best way to get a bad rule changed is to enforce it and have it cost either the Patriots or Cowboys a playoff or Super Bowl game. Fumbles going to defense simply because of where it went out of bounds is ridiculous. There used to be a rule you cannot fumble the ball forward for a yardage gain. With that said if the Steelers recovered the ball in the end zone they would not be credited with a TD? Also, I witnessed in a game where teams benefitted by committing a penalty. That should not be allowed. A rule that I believe SHOULD be made is that penalty calls OR no-calls should be able to be challenged. In fact all plays and calls should be able to be challenged. Sports announcers are not supposed to make controversial comments on the air about officials yet many do because of bad calls. I understand refs are human and things happen. This is why ALL calls/non-calls should be able to be challenged. As for Steelers versus Broncos, they absolutely played pathetic football.

  49. Question: If the offense fumbles the ball into the end zone but the defensive player knocks it out of the end zone (not in field of play) what happens?

  50. Last year when Steeler player caught a pass, made 1 step and dove for end zone but the ball moved in his hands as he (not the ball) hit the ground the refs called an incomplete pass. Same season a diving Patriot player caught a pass in the end zone but the ball clearly hit the ground and back into the players hands before he hit the ground. Refs called touchdown and replay supposedly confirmed it. Replay I saw was clear enough to me and anyone with actual eyesight. I think critical calls, or reviews are partially based on what team is involved or “other than” fairness motives.

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