Covering the Front and Back Pages of the Newspaper
January 06, 2003
FOOTBALL: NFL Rules
Rich Lowry on NRO reprints a fascinating point from a reader email on the last play of the Giants' implosion yesterday:
"Immediately [after the game ended] Chris Collinsworth gets after Matt Allen, the Giants holder, for not immediately spiking the ball. Collinsworth exclaimed that this would have stopped the clock and allowed for another field goal attempt. . . . under NFL rules Allen spiking the ball would have induced an intentional grounding penalty with a ten second runoff, thus ending the game. Only a quarterback taking a hand-to-hand exchange from the center, then immediately throwing the ball forward to the ground, constitutes a legal spike. Anything else is intentional grounding which results in not only loss of yardage and down, but a ten second runoff to boot."
I wasn't sure if this was correct, so I went to the rules; I didn't have time to scour the rulebook, but the grounding rule itself doesn't say anything about the passer taking a handoff rather than a long snap as a predicate to a proper spike:
Intentional Grounding of Forward Pass
3. Intentional grounding will not be called when a passer, while out of the pocket and facing an imminent loss of yardage, throws a pass that lands at or beyond the line of scrimmage, even if no offensive player(s) have a realistic chance to catch the ball (including if the ball lands out of bounds over the sideline or end line).
However, Jerry Seeman, the NFL's director of officiating, addressed just this point in a Q&A on the NFL's website two years ago:
Brian Chan, B.C. Canada: If the holder for a field-goal unit has trouble handling the snap, can he legally spike the ball to stop the clock without being called for intentional grounding?
Jerry Seeman: If the holder spiked the ball, it would be intentional grounding. The only player that can legally spike the ball to stop the clock, is a T-quarterback.
That looks like the answer to that - Collinsworth was wrong.