Sports Illustrated recently ran a bit on The Five Most Confusing Football Rules. As usual, I feel compelled to reply:

1. Illegal Touching

If a player touches the goal line or goes in the end zone, he is not allowed to touch the ball on a punt. If he does, it is Illegal Touching as if the ball went in the end zone.

2. Illegal Block

Blocking from behind is illegal, simple as that. A lower block behind the back is called clipping. If the player’s shoulder pads are in front of the player he is hitting, the block is considered legal.

3. Illegal substitution

The offense sends out 11 players to the huddle. The defense is then allowed to substitute. However, neither the offense or defense are allowed to have more than 11 players in the huddle in an effort to disguise their intentions.

4. The Tuck Rule

This is a pretty tired one. If the QB starts to pass and then pulls the ball into his body, it is still considered a pass and no fumble can occur. However, if the QB successfully ‘tucks’ the ball into his body and continues to have possession of it, if he loses the ball it is considered a fumble. The Patriots love this rule.

5. Eligible Receivers

There are only 5 possible eligible receivers on offense, 6 if the QB is in the shotgun. The other 5 lineman are not eligible. That’s just the way it is. Normally this is clearly designated by the player numbers (O-linemen are numbers 50-79). Sometimes, the offense might want to use an 6th or 7th offensive lineman as an extra blocker. Technically, this player is lining up as an eligible receiver and this fact must be communicated to the defense.

The offense must have at least 7 players on the line of scrimmage. Of these 7, only the two players on the outside ends are eligible receivers. If the offense lines up with more than 7 players on the line, they are giving up the right to throw to the players not positioned at either end of the line. The receivers “covering the tackles” has become confusing because the actual names for the receivers have fallen into disuse. As mentioned, there are five lineman. You must have an eligible receiver “covering” the lineman on each side. Normally, the “tight end” lines up right next to one of the tackles and a wide receiver (which used to commonly known as the “split end” would line up on the line of scrimmage, but far away from the tackle. All other eligible receivers can NOT be on the line of scrimmage. The wide receiver on the side of the tight end is a yard off the line and called the “flanker”. Any receiver than lines up a yard off the line between the tackle and the split end is usually called the “slot” receiver. If the slot receiver accidentally lines up on the line of scrimmage, that player is ineligible to catch a pass.

Now for my pet peeve. “The ground can’t cause a fumble”. Not true! The actual interpretation of this rule is that when a player is in possession of the ball, gets tackled and hits the ground, if the ball comes loose it is not a fumble. Not because the ground can’t cause a fumble but because the split second that player hit the ground, he is considered down. If the player is not touched by an opposing player and falls and the ball comes loose, that IS considered a fumble.