The NFL is without a doubt America’s sport of choice, surpassing baseball and basketball. Though the NFL is not without its controversies, you need only a few minutes reading about CTE on medical web sites for health, it is still the premier league for football. Though football seems easy enough to understand there are truly some weird things going on beneath the surface. We decided to explore that weirdness by showcasing 20 of the most BIZARRE NFL rules ever!
The Fair Catch Kick
Did you know there are more ways to score three points at a time than just the field goal? After receiving a ‘fair catch’ from either a kick off or punt the receiving team can either run a play (100% of the time) or opt for a ‘fair catch kick’. A fair catch kick is a free kick that occurs in place of the beginning of a drive. The last successful fair catch kick was in 1976.
End Zone Celebrations
Okay so this rule isn’t so much bizarre as downright terrible. Rather than nurse a fanbase to a fun game of football, complete with entertaining celebrations, the NFL bans anything that ‘crosses the line’. The problem with this rule isn’t just its application, but also its interpretation. The officials get to decide what ‘crosses the line’. At Lambeau Field the Packers are allowed to do a ‘Lambeau Leap’. At any other stadium a player would get penalized for doing the leap. Arbitrary garbage.
Out of Bounds Kicks
This play was recently put under the spotlight by Green Bay Packer utility man Ty Montgomery. On a kick off, not punt, a receiving player can step out of bounds and touch the ball in order to advance it to the 40 yard line. Why? Because if the player touches it while out of bounds, the ball was technically out of bounds as well. Cheap huh. Don’t look up the medical information to decode the thought process required for this rule to exist.
During P.A.Ts or field goal attempts the defensive side of the ball isn’t allowed to push or pull one another. The reason being is that it would give the defense too much leverage. Violating this rule results in a 15 yard penalty and a head scratch from the audience back home. You’re going to need primo coffee service to catch every time this rule is violated on a given Sunday.
The Drop Kick
Did you know that a quarterback is allowed to advance the ball down the field via dropping it on the ground and kicking it off of the bounce? When the NFL had rounder footballs, back in the ’50s and ’60s, this rugby-type move was actually pretty common. The last time it happened in the NFL was in 2005 by Doug Flutie.
Out Of Bounds Punt Coverage
When a team punts away the football their defense needs to rush downfield to corral the returner. If any of the kicking team’s players voluntarily go out of bounds it is an instant 15 yard penalty — even if they stay out of the play. This is so that teams don’t try to get an advantage by racing up the field out of bounds. Wow, that actually makes sense.
Back to Back Timeouts
No matter how bad your coach is your team will never be allowed to call timeouts within a single period of dead ball ‘action’. If a coach attempts to call two timeouts in a row his team will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct. I guess not knowing the rules is pretty unsportsmanlike.
Free Kick Returns
On the kickoff the kicking team can try and kill the ball by touching it before the opposing team. However, after the ball has been touched the return team can still make a play on it without worrying about anything. That is to say, the return team can’t turn the ball over after it has been touched by the other side — even if they fumble it. Try to work that one out and you’ll be calling a nurse for a mental health check.
Automatic Coin Toss Loss
At the beginning of the game and at the beginning of the overtime period there is a coin toss. If one team does not get their players on the field fast enough to observe the coin toss then they automatically are rendered losers to the toss. Why this rule exists is anyone’s guess. What teams really weren’t showing up for the toss?
Possession After Scores
We assume that after every score the defensive team gets a chance to run their offense. This isn’t exactly the case. The team that gets scored on actually gets to decide if they want the ball or not. The team that was scored on can actually elect to kick off again anyway.
Palpably Unfair Act
Imagine that your favorite team is about to score a touchdown. The running back is sprinting down the field, alone, when a coach from the OTHER team runs onto the field and tackles them. This would be considered a Palpably Unfair Act. In the rule book rule is used to stop, essentially, cheating from happening. The refs have to all agree for the rule to be called. Look at Mike Tomlin stopping Jacoby Jones from a touchdown return for the closest real example we can come up with.
First Down on a Punt
If a team is punting it means that it is 4th down. Typically the only way to get a 1st down is either via penalty or by running a play. However, the punting team can get a first down by hitting an opposing player with the ball and then picking it back up. Imagine that a punter flubs a kick and it doinks off of a linebacker. The ball is ‘live’ now and if the punting team recovers it is a first down.
Multiple Field Goals in one series
Typically if you kick a field goal and miss you turn the ball over. That’s only because field goals typically happen on 4th down. If a team tries a field goal kick on 2nd down they can try again — so long as they recover the ball. This is admittedly a rare scenario that seems to come to fruition in late game scenarios when teams are fearful of their kick being blocked.
Consecutive Onside Kick Attempts
If you kick the ball out of bounds on a regular kick off you are penalized. If you kick the ball out of bounds on an onside kick attempt you actually get a second chance. Onside kicks, apparently, are like bunting in baseball — you get two options but a third will strike you out.
No Touching the Snap
When a QB lines up under center they have to be the first player to touch the ball. If the ball is snapped between the legs of the QB, or over his head, no other player on offense or defense can touch it. If someone on offense touches it first it is considered a false start and a penalty if a defender touches the ball it is ruled dead and a 5 yard penalty is assessed.
Leapfrog is ILLEGAL
On P.A.Ts you will typically see a gap between the offensive snapper and the defensive line. The reason a gap exists there is because defenders know they aren’t allowed to jump right over the offensive player. This is called leapfrog and is another variation of Illegal Leverage, listed above.
Receivers can be thrown down in certain formations
Typically you can’t touch a wide receiver after five yards unless making a play on the ball. However, if your offense lines up in a punting formation then all bets are off. Receivers can be knocked around as much as the defenders want in fake punt scenarios.
Teams can DQ their starting QBs
NFL teams typically carry three QBs on their roster. However, there is a rule that says if you bring in your third stringer before the 4th quarter than your first two QBs are disqualified from returning to action. The biggest twist on this rule? Your third stringer can’t come into the game for ANYTHING or else the rule will still apply.
A team can win in OT by 9 points
Thanks to the new overtime rules it is now possible to win a game by up to 9 points in overtime. Team A can score a field goal on their first possession and then get a pick six on defense — ending the game with a 9 point margin.
1 Point Play
Nobody tell the Cleveland Browns, but there is a way to score a SINGLE point in the NFL. This is called the Conversion Safety. The conversion safety is only awarded when a defending player hits the ball out of the back of the endzone on an extra point/ two point conversion attempt. The last time this happened was in 1940.