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 the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday night.
The league has asked officials to start watching holders more closely to make sure they’re not using any illegal foreign objects, according to Football Zebras. The rule that teams have been violating is 11-4-5, which states that “No article of any type may be placed on the field, or used in any manner, to assist a player in the execution of a field goal and/or [extra point] attempt.”
Cowboys holder Bryan Anger usually grabs a blade of grass and puts it down in front of him so he knows exactly where to put the football down when he’s holding, but even that’s illegal and the officiating crew let him know during Dallas’ win on Monday.
Cowboys special teams coach John Fassel didn’t even realize that the NFL was cracking down until Anger told him.
“I hadn’t seen any memo or discussion about it,” Fassel said, via the Cowboys official website. “I didn’t even know about it until our holder came up to tell me what happened. Supposedly, it was emphasized all season but it’s never been brought up to me my whole career.”
As Fassel stated, he’s never had any issue over the course of his career with a holder finding something to mark the spot where the ball goes, and he’s been coaching in the NFL since 2005, but now, the league is putting a stop to 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 talked to Anger just before the second attempt.
“It’s not an excuse by any means, just very unique to have that happened,” Fassel said.
It’s not just Dallas breaking the rule though, the Eagles‘ holder has been known to use some sort of marker so he knows 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 just literally to mark the spot. It’s part of the playing surface, like a piece of grass or something like that.”
Although Elliott probably believes 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’re doing, and they saw what we were doing,” Elliott said. “Probably 30 teams do it around the league. It’s just a point of emphasis, and someone makes it bigger than it is.”
By using a blade of grass, a holder can mark the spot where he should put the ball down so that he has it exactly where the kicker wants it. With the NFL no longer allowing this, it will be interesting to see if the enforcing of the rule will have any impact on kickers going forward.