March 15 (Bloomberg) -- The National Football League’s competition committee will ask owners to modify the so-called tuck rule to make it a fumble rather than an incompletion when a quarterback loses the ball as he brings it to his body.
Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president and co-chairman of the committee, said many such plays were being called as fumbles on the field before getting reversed by replay officials because of the rule’s language.
“We’ve been talking about this for too many years,” McKay told reporters on a conference call yesterday. “We were swayed by the officials themselves who met with us in Indianapolis and were very comfortable calling this.”
If the quarterback loses the ball while his arm is going forward, the play would remain an incomplete pass, McKay said. The rule used to consider the quarterback’s throwing motion to last from the time he begins moving his arm forward until he tucks the ball back against his body.
The tuck rule saved Tom Brady and the New England Patriots from a fumble late in a playoff game against the Oakland Raiders in 2002. The Patriots went on to win the first of three Super Bowl titles.
The committee also proposed a change that would prevent runners or defenders from lowering their heads to initiate contact with the crown of the helmet while approaching each other outside the tackle box. McKay said the change would protect players and force them to choose safer techniques.
Another proposed rule change would allow officials to use instant replay even if a coach incorrectly throws a challenge flag on a play subject to automatic review.
Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz challenged a touchdown run by the Houston Texans’ Justin Forsett in a game last year and thus negated the automatic review of scoring plays, which probably would have wiped out the touchdown because Forsett was clearly down.
Owners will discuss the proposed changes when the league’s 32 teams meet in Arizona next week.
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