Hi everyone, here are a few more Mailbag questions this week and I'm happy to answer them. (Read the latest chat recap here ).
Here are two readers who want to know about why there is a change of possession after a ball is fumbled into the end zone, and how the ball is spotted when that occurs. The game being referenced is the Week 3 matchup of Chargers at Seahawks just before the two-minute warning of the first half.
Steve S. from Vergennes, Vt., wrote:
"Mike, doesn't it seen unbalanced that when a receiver is stripped of the ball before crossing the end zone and the ball goes out of bounds, that possession automatically goes against the ball carrier? More fair would be to give possession to the player who last had control, as in a fumble out of bounds on the sideline. I know it's not the rule, but Deion Branch's team should fairly get the ball on the 1-yard line, since change of possession is such an extreme outcome.
Andy from Wilbraham, Wash., wrote:
"Why does a fumble out of the end zone=touchback? If Deion Branch had fumbled out of bounds at the 1, Seattle would have kept the ball. If a penalty occurs in the end zone, the ball is placed at the 1. Why does a fumble go to the other team as a touchback? Thanks.
To Steve and Andy: These are good questions that are frequently asked and are often discussed by the competition committee.
To cite the rule, a ball that is fumbled forward into and out of the end zone is a touchback and the defense gets the ball at the 20 yard line. If a ball is fumbled forward and out of bounds in the field of play, the ball is returned to the spot of the fumble and the offense keeps the ball.
The difference, of course, is the involvement of the end zone. Force only applies when a loose ball goes from the field of play into the end zone. It does not apply to a fumble forward that goes out of bounds in the field of play. Force is attributed to the player who passes, kicks or fumbles the ball into the end zone. Since the fumbling player "forces" the ball into the end zone, the defense gets possession if the fumble goes out of bounds. It really doesn't seem consistent but the end zone involvement changes a lot of rules in our game.
Here's a question about Chiefs defensive Shaun Smith, who has been accused of grabbing an opponent's "private parts" two games in a row.
Lee from San Jose, Calif., wrote:
"What can the NFL do to stop this person form doing these things? It sets a bad example for the youth of today that you must grab at some ones privates to win, get an edge, etc. Can the NFL review past game footage of Smith and then punish him?"
Hi Lee: Interesting question.
It is really tough to see what goes on in a pile of players and now virtually impossible since the umpire is on the offensive side of the ball and a long way from the pile when the play ends. If this is in fact happening, it is despicable and I promise you that if the league sees this on video it will take strong disciplinary action in the form of a fine. The league can issue fines even though a call is not made on the field. The officiating department looks at every play and if they see any action like this they refer it to Football Operations for a possible fine.