Football

Mike Pereira on needed NFL rule change; high-wire act; defining spike vs. fumble

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Fox Sports rules analysts Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino discuss the San Francisco 49ers recent upswing and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.
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Fox Sports rules analysts Mike Pereira and Dean Blandino discuss the San Francisco 49ers recent upswing and quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo.

Each week throughout the NFL season, Mike Pereira, the league’s former vice president of officiating, will answer readers’ questions about officiating and league rules.

To put your questions up to Pereira’s review, email them to askmike@sacbee.com and include your name and location in the submission.

Q: Under NFL rules, if the defense commits a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct when a team scores a touchdown or field goal, the penalty is assessed on the following kickoff. This means the kickoff is from the 50-yard line instead of the 35. That would appear to increase the likelihood of a touchback, meaning the team that had committed the penalty would end up with the ball on the 25-yard line. This does not seem like much of a penalty. Shouldn’t something like roughing the passer or similar conduct result in a stiffer penalty?

– Tim Harrington, Aptos

A: I agree this rule needs to be addressed, but not necessarily for the reason you state.

I think that fouls that normally get enforced on the kickoff should carry the option of being enforced either on the kickoff or on the extra-point play. No such option exists in the NFL, while it does in college.

Giving the offended team the option could have a profound effect in light of the new extra-point rule where extra-point kick attempts are snapped from the 15-yard line. Imagine an unsportsmanlike conduct foul on the offense after a score. The defense could choose to enforce the 15-yard penalty from the 15-yard line back to the 30, resulting in a 47-yard extra-point attempt.

Conversely, a foul by the defense could result in a two-point try from the 1-yard line instead of from the 2. To me, this rule change would align itself nicely with the change that has made it tougher to kick an extra point.

Q: The popularity of the above-field camera is growing and it is being used more and more in the NFL telecasts. What are the rules regarding contact between the football and the camera/cabling suspended above the field? I assume contact is relatively rare? Are their restrictions where the camera/cabling can be relative to the position of the ball on the field?

– Pete McKeighan, Placerville

A: I appreciate the question, Pete, especially because I was recently in Dallas and we were talking about what would happen if a punt hit the giant scoreboard that hangs directly over the field at the home of the Cowboys.

If that were to happen, or if the ball were to hit one of the guide wires, you would get that rare occurrence of a “do over.” This has happened before, although it is rare, and hard to see, especially if the ball touches one of the wires.

Therefore, there are three sets of eyes that can come into play. If the officials see it, they can shut down the play and initiate the do over. If the officials don’t see it but the replay official does, the replay official can shut the play down and call for the do over. The replay official can do this any time during the course of the game.

Lastly, a coach can challenge that the ball hit the wired scoreboard or anything else suspended over the stadium. If he does and the ball did hit something, he wins the challenge and does not lose a timeout.

By the way, the basic simple guideline for these cameras is that they must be behind the line of scrimmage when the ball is snapped.

Q: How lenient are officials when it comes to a quarterback spiking the ball to stop the clock? It seems many QBs take the snap and basically drop the ball rather than use a legitimate throwing motion to throw the ball to the ground. If you drop the ball on the ground, it’s normally a fumble.

– James Hintz, Sterling Heights, Mich.

A: They are pretty lenient in this area. All the quarterback really needs to do is push the ball to the ground.

This is a specific rule that allows the quarterback to spike the ball to stop the clock. He has to do it immediately after receiving a hand-to-hand snap from the center. In the NFL, the quarterback cannot do it from a shotgun position. In the NCAA, he can.

People often ask me why this isn’t intentional grounding. It’s actually a simple concept. It is grounding if the quarterback throws the ball away to prevent loss of yardage. It is not grounding if he immediately spikes the ball to stop the clock.

As long as the quarterback demonstrates any type of control, he is legally spiking the ball.

Mike Pereira is a rules analyst for Fox Sports who lives in Sacramento.

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