NFL to review fumble through end zone rule


One of the most controversial rules in football will be reviewed by the NFL this offseason. NFL EVP Troy Vincent said the league will discuss amending the touchback rule regarding fumbling through the end zone.

This is notable, because previously, there hadn't been much conversation among decision-makers about a potential change. When asked last year if there had been any formal discussion in recent years to change the rule, a competition committee source texted Jones saying: "None."

This hotly debated topic came up once again during the Kansas City Chiefs' divisional-round victory against the Buffalo Bills, when Chiefs wideout Mecole Hardman fumbled the ball at the Bills' 1-yard line, and it went through the end zone and out of bounds. The Bills were then granted possession at their own 20-yard line.

ESPN added after this play that there's a "good chance" the rule will be changed, and there's momentum behind it. 

The NFL rulebook states: "If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent's end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team." Although it's a rare occurrence, seemingly every time this rule is enforced in a game, it is met with criticism.

One issue regarding a potential change was what the alternative ruling would be. Instead of automatically awarding possession to the defense, could the line of scrimmage for the fumbling party be pushed back to the 20-yard line? Could this be treated like an intentional grounding penalty with a loss of down? 

That alternative ruling to replace the touchback may be key to a change. Nothing is guaranteed at this point, but this rule will indeed be reviewed. 

Dan Butcher

Dan Butcher (aka HP Pundit) is not a Democrat or Republican. He is a free thinking independent bringing you news and commentary with a dose of much needed common sense.

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