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  • Contributors


    Cris Collinsworth

    Former Pro Bowl wide receiver for the Cincinnati Bengals and Emmy-winning analyst from Sunday Night Football and Inside the NFL.
    Dave Lapham
    Has called game for the Bengals radio network for 25 years. Analyst for Big 12 games on Fox Sports Net. Played 10 years in the NFL for the Cincinnati Bengals.
    Turk Schonert
    NFL quarterback for 10 years with the Bengals and Falcons. Has served as quarterback coach for the Buccaneers, Bills, Panthers, Giants and Saints and Offensive Coordinator for the Bills.
    Phil McConkey
    Played 6 years in the NFL as a WR, punt returner and kick returner for the Giants, Packers, Cardinals and Chargers. Played college football at the Naval Academy and served in the U.S. Navy before joining the NFL. Best remembered for his oustanding game in Super Bowl XXI.
    Josina Anderson
    Josina "JoJo" Anderson is contributing reporter on Showtime's Inside the NFL and is a weekend co-anchor/reporter/producer for FOX 31 Sports in Denver, Colorado. Josina produces the nightly sportscasts and covers the Denver Broncos, Denver Nuggets, Colorado Avalanche, and the Colorado Rockies.
    Jerry Jones
    NFL Draft Expert, has published the acclaimed Drugstore List since 1978.
    Russell S Baxter
    Researcher, writer and editor covering the NFL for over 30 years.
    Andy Freeland
    Statistician and researcher for NBC's Sunday Night Football.
  • Referee Annual Meetings Always Interesting: New Rules and Clarifications

    Many thanks to Carl Johnson and the NFL referees for allowing me to hang out with them for a day in Dallas as they worked their craft. The most important thing that I come away from those meetings with is that I am sure glad I don't have to make those calls. There are so many rules, exceptions to rules, and exceptions to the exceptions that is makes your head spin. They give a quiz that the officials have to score 80% on or better. I can barely figure out what the heck they are asking. It makes law school look like elementary school.

    For example: 1st and 10 on 50. A2 takes the handoff and runs to the B40 where he loses the ball and B1 recovers at the B42 and advances into the A's end zone. Officials rule that A2 was down by contact at the B40. A2 lost the ball before he was down by contact.

    Imagine reading a hundred of those things over lunch. But, those guys breeze through it occasionally arguing over details of one of the questions with discussions that are often tough to follow.

    It is never easy to criticize the officials when you see how hard they work at it and how much they care. I used to end up in the same Crown Room as the officials after games when I worked early games for NBC and Fox. They would immediately debrief me about the tough calls in the game. “Did I get it right?” They were all so passionate about making correct calls, it was tough to tell them when they didn’t.

    We spent about an hour going over catch or no-catch scenarios. The basics of the rule are now:

    1) Possession
    2) Two feet down
    3) Some element of time after two feet down. Basically the old “do something football related.”

    The Calvin Johnson rule would still not be a catch. He caught the ball, controlled it, got two feet down, but in the process of going to the ground he had to maintain control until he completed the process of going to the ground. Johnson’s last roll over was with the ball in one hand and when that hand hit the ground the ball popped out. Incomplete. They did contrast that with a couple of plays when the receiver caught the ball, went to the ground and controlled it, then raised the ball to show it to the referee and the defender knocked it out of his hands. That is a completion because he completed the process of going to the ground with the ball still in his control.

    The referees were also considering all the new tricks the special teams coaches would come up with now that they are kicking off from the 35. The other part of that rule that I had not heard is that all of the cover guys have to be within 5 yards of the 35. No more 10 yard running start before the kickoff. So expect a lot of crossing to build momentum just before the ball is kicked. The feeling is that there will be a lot of high directional kicks as teams try to pin the receiving team inside the 20.

    The other change is that now ALL scoring plays will be reviewed. We had a game in Green Bay last year where the TD was obviously wrong, but by the time the crew got to the 4th or 5th replay that finally showed the mistake, the extra point had already been kicked. Now the umpire will stand over the ball until the score is confirmed and the replay official can take all the time he wants.

    When you sit in their seats and debate close plays at real speed, you get a pretty good sense of what a good job they generally do. It was a fun day. The season has officially begun. Have rule book, will travel.

    Comments 35 Comments
    1. realheavyd's Avatar
      Hey Chris, when are you going to write up your off-season opinion of the New Orleans Saints for the upcoming 2011 season? Do you like their chances to rebound after a disappointing loss in the playoffs last year at Seattle? Just wondering what your opinion of them might be.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Even without being a Lions fan, I haven't like how the rules have changed on posession. I love the "50 drunks in a bar" line of demarcation. If the fans can't tell a catch, what good is the rule?

      So the refs will call a timeout after each score? Good. I hated the losing team have to call a time out just to give the refs enough time to review it in the last two minutes.
    1. Sander's Avatar
      Referees get way too much flak and not enough appreciation given the difficulty of what they're doing. With everything they have to track in real time, fans have the luxury of criticizing them based on infinte slow-motion replays. It's easy to lose track of that.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Not a catch?

      Got it.

      <spits>

    1. Dave Lapham's Avatar
      Cris, I just got back from the Big 12 Officials Meeting where they discussed rule changes to the college game. Now if a player taunts before he crosses the goal line, the points come off the board and a penalty is accessed from the spot of the foul. Example: a player is at the 5 yard line and begins his act running to the end zone. No TD, ball at the 20 yard line. A QB throws a TD pass but in his exuberance gives the throat slash. No TD, points off the board, penalty accessed from where he slashed his throat. This one could have a huge impact on a game in the early stages of the season. All it should take is for it too happen once you would think. The other thing about these sessions that always impressed me is how the crew's responsibilities change when there is motion, shifting, change of formation. They are a team themselves on the field and take great pride ion getting things right. The Director of Big 12 Officials is Walt Anderson, who officiated the Super Bowl last season. He gave us the test they had to pass. It was amazing. These guys do a lot of homework believe me.
    1. msclemons's Avatar
      It's been nearly a year and that Calvin Johnson call still irritates me. It's as bad as the Tuck Rule call.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by msclemons View Post
      It's been nearly a year and that Calvin Johnson call still irritates me. It's as bad as the Tuck Rule call.
      His knee hit the ground in the end zone. He had the ball. To my interpretation of the rules, that is a touchdown, right then. If he was not in the end zone he would have been down. How can a play be a down in one part of the field and not another? Only in the ridiculously over-managed NFL.

      That would have been a game changer for the entire 2010 season for the Lions. First road victory in years. First time since 2007 they had a winning record...

      <Sigh>
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      [QUOTE=GoBigOrGoHome;61432]His knee hit the ground in the end zone. He had the ball. To my interpretation of the rules, that is a touchdown, right then. If he was not in the end zone he would have been down. {/QUOTE]

      And your interpretation is flat out wrong. Completion on a pass play requires 3 things, clear possession, body in field by rule, maintain possession(too many definitions on this part to list). He did not complete part 3.

      You don't rule a possession based on completing 1of 3 things, or 2 of 3 things, you need all 3.

      If you argue that him holding the ball to the side was part 3(a football "act"), therefore negating going ot the ground as the required part 3, I would agree with you as I felt that was the defining part of that play. That act should have negated going to the ground, but posession still requires all 3 parts.

      And if he wsn't in the endzone he would not have been down, it would have been incomplete.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      Now if a player taunts before he crosses the goal line, the points come off the board and a penalty is accessed from the spot of the foul.
      The NCAA is really getting stupid on taunting.



      BTW that's a catch.
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      The NCAA is really getting stupid on taunting.



      BTW that's a catch.
      Yes it was. And the NCAA is doing something stupid? Hmph. Who'd have thunk that?
    1. darvon's Avatar
      The problem is maintain possession is too wierd to be a rule. Players are moving fast and they don't stop their momentum like humans would. Most people would have said that was a catch. If the same thing happened at the 50, the debate would have been between down by contact and fumble.

      It doesn't matter what the rules say, because this is a spectator sport. The rules need to be useful to the spectator. If the rules said that the player needed to exert at least 20g of stopping force for it to be a catch, the rule still would be stupid, even though the refs might g meters. The drunks in the bar test is still the best measure.

      That was a catch. Everyone has seen a zillion examples of the ball being held for a shorter period of time and being called complete. Making a "football move" has no useful definition, and is certainly not useful to the spectator.

      You must like the Tuck rule too.

      How about we go back to possession during body in field. Everyone can see that and then the discussion will be "possession when his toes hit the ground?" as opposed to "football move after?".

      It's much more a stupid rule than a stupid call. This is the Competition Committee's fault, not the ref.

      I would copy the actual rule for this discussion, but the NFL doesn't like to put the rules online, as then the fans could actually SEE the rule.

      -----------
      Back to the OP.

      Cris, can you tell the NFL to put those tests ONLINE? We fans might like to give them a whirl....
    1. GoBigOrGoHome's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by Ragar View Post
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      His knee hit the ground in the end zone. He had the ball. To my interpretation of the rules, that is a touchdown, right then. If he was not in the end zone he would have been down.
      And your interpretation is flat out wrong. Completion on a pass play requires 3 things, clear possession, body in field by rule, maintain possession(too many definitions on this part to list). He did not complete part 3.

      You don't rule a possession based on completing 1of 3 things, or 2 of 3 things, you need all 3.

      If you argue that him holding the ball to the side was part 3(a football "act"), therefore negating going ot the ground as the required part 3, I would agree with you as I felt that was the defining part of that play. That act should have negated going to the ground, but posession still requires all 3 parts.

      And if he wsn't in the endzone he would not have been down, it would have been incomplete.
      I understand the rule. The rule is the problem. And very, very stupid.

      And holding the caught ball in two hands while maneuvering it away from the flailing hand of the defender who is draped all over him isn't a football move?

      1) he caught the ball
      2) he maneuvered it away from the defender
      3) his knee hit the ground
      4) he was in bounds

      Touchdown.

      We can go back & forth on this forever. But we've already done that.

      http://footballpros.com/showthread.p...calvin+johnson

      That's my story and I'm sticking to it, dammit! (Sorry, Ragar - some wounds never heal)
    1. darvon's Avatar
      OK. Cris you hit a pet peeve.

      1) Listen to the broadcast, the announcers say that the refs were talking to them just that day about the rule.

      2) Your OP was about going tp Ref training.

      3) I remember the sheet of situations that Andy posted before the post season last year on the new overtime rules.

      4) I remember Steve Young talking about the tuck rule and talking about clarification letters coming at the start of the season.



      Apparently the NFL produces a LOT of detail about the rules and makes that available to teams and to Media.

      Post it on the friggin Internet. Why does Roger think we need a translator to get that info to the fans. Everything that goes to the players/refs/media about the rules should be put online. The fans would LOVE it. It would lock the fanatics like me closer and make the forum debates more fact filled.

      There is no reason to keep it private. If fans won't like rules, its better to mitigate expectations by releasing the rules and details, instead of hiding them for a later SURPRISE.

      POST THE DETAILS.
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by darvon View Post
      The problem is maintain possession is too wierd to be a rule.
      And yet you have to define possession being re-aquired once the ball leaves a players hands in a legal forward pass. Therefore there is going to be a bunch of rules to define it that are very particular. They way the rules are written(given what we have seen of them) give the easiest way for referees to define it, not spectators.
    1. ReaderM's Avatar
      Thanks for the article on refereeing Cris. That to me is has always been one of the more fun aspects of the NFL game has been refereeing and there are not many articles when it except when a ref blows an obvious call.

      Most who follow football growing up wish to be an NFL player if they ever had the chances, I was on of the weird ones who wanted to be an NFL Ref (still do actually&young enough that still is not a fake dream.Makes refereeing Pop Warner games a lot easier if you know what prize you are going for lol)
    1. Ragar's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      I understand the rule. The rule is the problem. And very, very stupid.

      That's my story and I'm sticking to it, dammit! (Sorry, Ragar - some wounds never heal)
      I know, as I said, this to me was a case of the referees making the correct ruling on what they saw, but not focusing on the other part of the rule that would have allowed the TD to be called a TD correctly.

      In other news, I think the information on the new kick-off will result in a lot of fair catch calls from teh receiving team, especially based upon what the refs are thinking.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      And yet you have to define possession being re-aquired once the ball leaves a players hands in a legal forward pass. Therefore there is going to be a bunch of rules to define it that are very particular. They way the rules are written(given what we have seen of them) give the easiest way for referees to define it, not spectators.
      I think the prior way is easier. The prior way was essentially 1) & 2) out of the list of 3. Adding a new criteria, which lengthens the viewing time needed can't make things easier, just harder. Refs used to have to determine 1) while 2). Now they have to determine 1) while 2) AND afterwards 3) while 1). It makes them track 1) for a longer period of time and come to some decision on whether 3) happened prior to 1) not happening.

      Deciding 2 things is harder than deciding 1.
    1. darvon's Avatar
      I would love to have this discussion about the actual rule. If someone has it, please post it. That includes you Roger.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by realheavyd View Post
      Hey Chris, when are you going to write up your off-season opinion of the New Orleans Saints for the upcoming 2011 season? Do you like their chances to rebound after a disappointing loss in the playoffs last year at Seattle? Just wondering what your opinion of them might be.
      Saints are coming soon. I like to talk to somebody with the team before I write if I can. Will get to them this week.
    1. Cris Collinsworth's Avatar
      Quote Originally Posted by GoBigOrGoHome View Post
      His knee hit the ground in the end zone. He had the ball. To my interpretation of the rules, that is a touchdown, right then. If he was not in the end zone he would have been down. How can a play be a down in one part of the field and not another? Only in the ridiculously over-managed NFL.

      That would have been a game changer for the entire 2010 season for the Lions. First road victory in years. First time since 2007 they had a winning record...


      <Sigh>

      The call really didn't surprise me. Johnson was rolling over going to the ground. If he had come to a stop or started getting up then yes, completed catch. That rule is the same in the middle of the field. The one that surprised me was forward progress. If a receiver catches the ball is hit in the air and gets knocked backward while securing the catch he still get forward progress. It didn't seem to fit into the formula.