NFL says Ravens’ drop kick was illegal, John Harbaugh says refs cleared it

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The NFL says the drop kick the Ravens used late in their loss to the Chiefs two weeks ago was illegal. Ravens head coach John Harbaugh says he was specifically told otherwise.

The kick, which wasn’t flagged, was a late kickoff attempt on which Justin Tucker bounced the ball off the ground and then kicked it high, like a punt. The Chiefs fair caught it, which was advantageous to the Ravens because a fair catch doesn’t take any time off the clock, and the Ravens were trying to force the Chiefs to run an offensive play before the two-minute warning.

However, the NFL confirmed this week that the kick was illegal.

“By definition, a drop kick is a kick by a player who drops the ball and kicks it as, or immediately after, it touches the ground. If that does not happen, the play should be shut down and a flag thrown for a false start,” the league office said in a statement emailed to PFT.

Harbaugh, however, says the Ravens contacted the league as they were drawing up that play to make sure it was legal, and he was told that it was.

“We were in contact with the league officiating office all the way through,” Harbaugh said, via the Baltimore Sun. “We didn’t just pull it out and decide to try it and sneak it past them.”

Harbaugh accused the league of changing the rule after the fact.

“We explained exactly what we were doing and how it was going to go, and they said it was legal, we could do it,” Harbaugh said. “We talked to the officials before the game. They called the league office again. They had been in contact with the league office, the officiating office, and they said it was legal. Probably, the competition committee decided they didn’t want to see it, someone on the competition committee — probably the chairman [Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay] — decided with [senior vice president of officiating] Alberto [Riveron] he didn’t want to see it. So now, it’s not legal. So, that’s pretty much how it works and how it worked in this case.”

That’s not how it should work: The rules should be clear to every team, and the message from the officiating office shouldn’t change during the season. In this case, the rules have been clarified now, but the league says the Ravens got away with a kick that should have been penalized, while the Ravens say the league has changed its story.

33 responses to “NFL says Ravens’ drop kick was illegal, John Harbaugh says refs cleared it

  1. I remember this play. I wonder if it was illegal because he dropped the ball, then picked it up, and dropped it again to kick it. I wondered why a false start wasn’t called since he tried the kick twice.

  2. bkauble says:
    October 4, 2019 at 4:35 pm
    I remember this play. I wonder if it was illegal because he dropped the ball, then picked it up, and dropped it again to kick it. I wondered why a false start wasn’t called since he tried the kick twice.
    ____

    It sounds like it was illegal because he “bounced it” instead of dropping it and kicking it “…as, or immediately after, it touche[d] the ground.”

  3. John is a great coach and does things right way. If Bill came up with this it would be another example of his greatness. The refs clearly cleared it since they didn’t call penalty on field.

  4. “That’s not how it should work: The rules should be clear to every team, and the message from the officiating office shouldn’t change during the season.”
    ———————-

    The drop kick rule IS CLEAR AND HAS NOT CHANGED. The way Harbaugh executed the drop kick was illegal. BIG DIFFERENCE.

  5. bkauble says:
    October 4, 2019 at 4:35 pm
    I remember this play. I wonder if it was illegal because he dropped the ball, then picked it up, and dropped it again to kick it. I wondered why a false start wasn’t called since he tried the kick twice.

    ==============

    Surely this must be it. The “do over” looked ridiculous, and I can’t believe it was allowed to happen. It’s like if a punter didn’t like the snap and tossed it back to the snapper to try again.

  6. Apparently it’s too much to ask for the NFL to have clear rules that are enforced uniformly.

    I have no doubt he’s telling the truth about having made sure that was OK before doing it.

  7. Harbaugh has not had an original idea in his career. he waits till Belichick comes up with something, whines about it then steals it…seen this out of this guy for years.

  8. Either Harbaugh didn’t really clearly explain the kick as they executed (as he claims), or the NFL changed their mind after seeing what they OK’d. I could believe either explanation.

  9. canedaddy says:
    October 4, 2019 at 4:58 pm
    Apparently it’s too much to ask for the NFL to have clear rules that are enforced uniformly.

    I have no doubt he’s telling the truth about having made sure that was OK before doing it.
    ————————————–

    And I have no doubt what he described in advance did not match with what they did on the field. Harbaugh does have a history of not interpreting rules correctly

  10. TWO WEEKS after the game the league office is just NOW determining this was incorrectly called? Absolutely nobody with the NFL knows what the rules are. They probably spent the last 2 weeks arguing internally before making the final call using rock-paper-scissors.

  11. Maybe it was legal, IF and only IF, it worked on the first attempt. A bad bounce doesn’t automatically allow a do-over, which is how it played out. Har-bawl left that part out.

  12. So the League might not totally understand how to consistently implement one of its own rules? Shocking.

  13. Why do I feel they made this illegal after Doug Flutie did it for New England a few years back?

  14. The fact that it took 2 weeks to come out with a statement on it should tell you all you need to know.
    Usually the league releases a statement the next day regarding botched penalty calls.

  15. Watch Doug Flutie’s dropkick on youtube that he did as a Patriot back in 2006 I think it was. The kicker must drop the ball like a punter does, not throw it 10 feet in the air, then it’s kicked after the ball has bounced off the ground, about 2-3 inches. The way the Ravens Tucker did it is of course illegal. That wasn’t a dropkick. WOW, Harbawl still doesn’t know the rules of the NFL. Or even watched a video of how it’s done correctly, like Flutie’s? The Refs should have flagged the Ravens, would have loved to see Harbawl freak out about it.

  16. I’m so sick of people trying to spin this as a smart play by Harbaugh because it ended in a fair catch that took no time off the clock. You know what else doesn’t take time off the clock? Justin Tucker kicking it out of the end zone. Gives you better field position too.

  17. It seems like the rules used to be simpler. If the rule didn’t directly say–no you can not do this–then you were allowed to do it. The rules are getting to be too complex. Let the coaches be creative and the fans enjoy it. I’m certain you could teach a semester long class to someone that wants to learn the rules now, and branch that into a rule-book philosophy course.

  18. “Dan Carter: Rugby Drop Kick Restarts”

    That’s the video you should look at, not Doug Flutie’s kick goal.
    It’s not the same kick, you kick the ball under the lower tip to have a high, short kick.
    That’s the kick they tried to emulate, but a Nfl ball don’t bounce like a rugby ball, so the kicker launched the ball weirdly to have a correct bounce.

    I don’t understand why NFL people and media are “hyping” soccer’s player as kickers.
    Unless they want to bring soccer’s fans into their sport…
    Rugby player’s can make drop kicks from the middle of the field with the defense going at them and they tackle all game long, but yeah, a soccer player who spent his career kicking a round ball will be better…

  19. This is the last man that should be whining about knee jerk rule changes. Eligible receiver rule is a recent enough example of his hypocrisy I would think

  20. A&J Grant says:
    October 4, 2019 at 8:34 pm

    It seems like the rules used to be simpler. If the rule didn’t directly say–no you can not do this–then you were allowed to do it.
    _______________________________

    Sure the rules were simpler back then but since we’ve had HCs like BB that study the rulebook and they wander into those gray areas purposely, so then the opposing HC complains and the NFL makes a new rule or defines the rule further to try to avoid those gray areas, multiply that by __ years and here we are with a rule book that’s thicker than “War and Peace”!

    Maybe it’s time for the NFL to stop coddling all those whining HCs and making new rules just for them every off-season!

  21. Can they clarify whether it was illegal to drop kick a kickoff in any way, or whether it was that the Ravens conducted the play illegally? It sounds like it’s legal to kick off like that, but 1. Tucker picked up the ball after an initial attempt or 2. Tucker waited for too much of a bounce before making contact (not “immediately after the ball hit the ground), or 3. Lots of contact with the returner after he signaled fair catch. The league should contact Belichick for further understanding of the rule.

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