The NFL has decided to start cracking down and enforcing a little-known rule that several teams have been breaking this year, including the Dallas Cowboys, who broke the rule during their 31-14 wild-card playoff win over Tampa Bay. Buccaneers Monday night. .
The league has asked officials to start watching starters more closely to make sure they aren’t using illegal foreign objects, according to Football Zebras. The rule that teams have been violating is 11-4-5, which states that “No item of any kind may be placed on the field or used in any way to assist a player in making a field goal and/or either [extra point] to try.”
Cowboys starter Bryan Anger usually grabs a blade of grass and holds it in front of him so he knows exactly where to put the ball when he’s holding it, but even that is illegal and was made aware by the officiating team during the Cowboys’ win. Dallas on Monday.
Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel didn’t even realize the NFL was cracking down until Anger told him.
“I hadn’t seen any memos or discussions about it,” Fassel said, via the Cowboys’ official website. “I didn’t even know until our starter reached out to tell me what happened. Supposedly, he was stressed all season, but he was never mentioned to me in my entire career.”
As Fassel said, he’s never had a problem over the course of his career with a starter finding something to mark where the ball goes, and he’s been coaching in the NFL since 2005, but now, the league is ending the practice. The Cowboys aren’t the only ones who have been unknowingly breaking the rule.
Cowboys kicker Brett Maher missed an NFL-record four extra points on Monday. Fassel said the official spoke to Anger just before the second attempt.
“It’s not an excuse by any means, it’s very unique that that happened,” Fassel said.
It’s not just Dallas breaking the rule though, the Eagles starter has been known to use some sort of marker to know where to place the ball, according to Jake Elliott.
“We’ve always used something that’s within the rules,” Elliott said, via NJ.com. “It’s literally to mark the spot. It’s part of the playing surface, like a piece of grass or something.”
Although Elliott probably thinks this is legal because he’s been doing it his entire career, the league is cracking down.
“When we talked to them, we explained what we were doing and they saw what we were doing,” Elliott said. “Probably 30 teams do it in the league. It’s just a point of emphasis, and somebody makes it bigger than it is.”
According to Football Zebras, the Chiefs, Lions and Commanders are three other teams that have been breaking the rule.
Through the use of a blade of grass, a holder can mark where he should leave the ball so that he has it exactly where the kicker wants it. Since the NFL no longer allows this, it will be interesting to see if the enforcement of the rule will have any impact on kickers in the future.