NFL competition committee sees no need to change rule on fumbling through end zone, per report



It is an NFL rule that has pained many ball carriers, thrilled defenses and caused a lot of controversy over the years. The league ruling is that if a ball is fumbled into the end zone and out of bounds, it is a touchback and the team that was on defense now gets possession of the ball.

Many fans, and players, do not like this rule, but it seems like it is not going anywhere. The NFL competition committee went over the rule on Monday and the discussion to change it did not get very far, according to Judy Battista of NFL Media.

The competition committee defended the rule, saying the player carrying the ball is responsible for maintaining control, using this as the reasoning for why the rule does not need to be changed. Per NBC Sports, the competition committee is not expected to recommend to teams that the ruling is changed.

The rule is very different than when the ball goes out of bounds between the end zones. If a ball carrier loses control and the ball goes out of play in the 100 yards of the field, the offense maintains possession. Many use the disparity between what happens between the goal lines as a reasoning to change what happens if the ball goes outside of the end zone.

Any rule that goes through a change requires around three to four months of voting. There have been talks of changing the rule to give the offense the ball back at the spot of the fumble or on the opposing team’s 15-yard line, according to Bleacher Report, but nothing is in motion yet. 

One reasoning for not changing the rule is because they do not have a better solution for the situation.

“At the heart of the issue, a source said, is that no one has been able to crystalize what an alternative would be,” CBS Sports lead NFL insider Jonathan Jones said. “And if no one cares enough to offer an alternative to the rule, then there won’t be any change to the rule.”

According to a source, the last time the rule was discussed was after the 2017 season, when there were eight such plays. 

“There was some sentiment from clubs and fans that the rule was too punitive against the offense,” a 2018 committee report obtained by CBS Sports reads. “… After much consideration and review of video, the Committee did not believe a rule change was necessary, believing that it is an exciting play that rewards the defense for an offensive error.”  

The rule was on national display during the AFC divisional round between the Kansas City Chiefs and Buffalo Bills. Chiefs wide receiver Mecole Hardman reached the ball across the goal line and fumbled through the end zone, resulting in a touchback and possession for Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Co. Despite turning the ball over instead of getting six points, the Chiefs went on to win the game and eventually the Super Bowl.

The play does not happen often. The 2022 season had zero end-zone fumbles that resulted in a touchback, and there was just one such play in 2021. Since 2018, it has occurred just eight total times in the regular season.





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