Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

Discussion of technique and strategy.

Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

by CatsFaninOttawa » Wed May 28, 2014 12:23 pm

A question for all you rules people: when a team fumbles in their own end zone, is it enough that the other team just knock the ball out of bounds to get a touchdown, or do they need to actually gain control of the ball?

The rules state that "Possession means having the ball firmly held in hand or hands, arm or arms, leg or legs, or under the body." It also states that "A touchdown is scored when the ball is in possession of a player in the opponent’s Goal Area."

In the case of a fumbled ball going out of bounds in the field of play, possession Is awarded to whichever team touched it last before going out. The issue here is that the end zone is not part of the field of play, from what I gather. (There are a number of references to the ball going from the field of play into the goal area, and a few other statements that imply the end zone is separate.)

The rule book describes what happens if the ball is fumbled after being carried or fumbled into the end zone. But what if the ball is fumbled in the end zone on a punt or kickoff return, after an interception, or if a dribble kick puts the ball into the end zone? Am I missing the rule that applies to these cases? Or would it be a touchdown just for touching the ball last befopre it goes out of bounds?
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Re: Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

by GHT120 » Wed May 28, 2014 1:08 pm

SECTION 2 – DEFINITIONS
Article 1 – Touchdown
A touchdown is scored when the ball is in possession of a player in the opponent’s Goal Area, or when the ball in the possession of a player crosses or touches the plane of the opponent’s Goal Line. Should the ball subsequently be fumbled, or the player in possession forced back into the Field of Play, the touchdown shall score.
After a touchdown, the team scored against may kickoff from its own 35-yard line or require the scoring team to kickoff from its (scoring team’s) 35-yard line.

SECTION 3 – POSSESSION
Possession means having the ball firmly held in hand or hands, arm or arms, leg or legs, or under the body.
When players of the opposite teams have possession of the ball, it shall belong to the player who first gained possession and who has not lost possession.
If players of both teams legally gain possession of the ball simultaneously, it shall belong to the team that last previously had possession.
A ball not in possession of a player is still in play. A ball shall be considered to have been fumbled if the player last in possession has lost control of it.
If a kicked ball other than a kickoff is legally touched by a player of either team, such touching shall be deemed to be possession.

Couldn't find the follow-up to the second highlighted text to show what possession means in the endzone on a kickoff, so nothing express in the rulebook (that I could find).
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Re: Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

by CatsFaninOttawa » Wed May 28, 2014 5:08 pm

So that addresses the cases where the ball is kicked (punt, field goal attempt, open field kick, dribble kick, but not kickoff) into the end zone - touching the ball is considered possession, so it'd be a touchdown if the kicking team is last to touch it before it goes out of bounds. Still unclear when it comes to some other fumble scenarios in the end zone.

One quirk I see here is that if a ball is kicked into the end zone and not handled cleanly, and an onside kicking team player touches the loose ball, by this definition is deemed to have possession. And possession in the opposing end zone results in a touchdown. But I'm pretty sure this isn't the case, that the kicking team player must have actual possession before a touchdown is awarded.
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Re: Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

by Paolo X » Thu Jun 19, 2014 5:45 am

CatsFaninOttawa wrote:So that addresses the cases where the ball is kicked (punt, field goal attempt, open field kick, dribble kick, but not kickoff) into the end zone - touching the ball is considered possession, so it'd be a touchdown if the kicking team is last to touch it before it goes out of bounds. Still unclear when it comes to some other fumble scenarios in the end zone.

One quirk I see here is that if a ball is kicked into the end zone and not handled cleanly, and an onside kicking team player touches the loose ball, by this definition is deemed to have possession. And possession in the opposing end zone results in a touchdown. But I'm pretty sure this isn't the case, that the kicking team player must have actual possession before a touchdown is awarded.


'One quirk I see here is that if a ball is kicked into the end zone and not handled cleanly, and an onside kicking team player touches the loose ball, by this definition is deemed to have possession.'

I think you are on the right track. Let's examine such kicked balls into the goal area from kick-offs as distinguished from all other types of kicks. I'll do my best here, but feel free to correct me and cite anything I might be missing in the rules anyone.

Possession and Scoring For Kicking Team On Kick-offs
As I understand the rule below, if that kicked ball is from a kick-off but was never possessed beyond mere touching by the receiving team or the kicking team no matter who touched it last before it goes out of bounds, there is no touchdown. The receiving team would take possession at the 25 just as if the ball were never touched by any player at all and went out of bounds if I am not mistaken. Again this is only on kick-offs.

And if that kicked ball from a kick-off is possessed in the goal area by the kicking team as in not merely touched before going out of bounds, well then obviously it would be a touchdown.

Possession and Scoring for Kicking Team On All Kicks Except for Kick-offs
Now take the same situation in the receiving teams goal area for all other kicks.

By rule as stated below, possession would only require touching of the ball by an onside player of the kicking team or after the ball is first possessed, as in touched, by the receiving team.

As an example, if the punt were not fielded for a single or a loose kicked ball or open field kick were not recovered by the receiving team in the goal area, the last party touching would have possession with the resulting score awarded to the kicking team as a single (no possession after kick), safety (receiving team but not onside player of kicking team touches or possesses the ball but does not make it out of end zone/goal area), or touchdown (an onside player of the kicking team, or any player on the kicking team after the first touch by the receiving team, merely touches if not recovers the ball before going out of bounds in the goal area).
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Re: Rule question on fumbles in the end zone

by Paolo X » Thu Jun 19, 2014 6:16 am

Sorry I got the last paragraph below wrong and it was too late to edit. This was harder than I thought, but here's my best shot for that second part below.

From a punt or any other kick that is not a kick-off into the goal area that results in a loose ball (ball hits the ground at any time), here are the resulting scoring possibilities for the kicking team:

1) Single - No one touches this kicked ball that crosses the goal line, and the ball goes out of bounds in the goal area.

2) Single - Beyond the typical instances when the receiving team has full possession in the goal area and downs the ball whether or not caught cleanly, say the receiving team touches or fully recovers the kicked ball that is not a kick-off in the goal area but the ball last possessed by the receiving team goes out of bounds for any reason without first crossing the goal line (i.e. the receiving team fumbles said ball out of bounds from the goal area)

3) Touchdown - An onside player of the kicking team, or any player of the kicking team after a player of the receiving team has touched or fully recovered the ball but was not able to advance it beyond the goal line or was not ruled down before losing possession of the ball, touches or fully recovers the ball before that ball goes out of bounds in the goal area.

4) Safety - It would be very rare and I have no idea how it would all work out, so I am guessing here. I'm sure if this happened during a game, it would take them 10 minutes including a long commercial break to sort out for us.

Say on the same kicking play basically the ball were to be touched but not fully recovered first by the receiving team AND then the loose ball crossed the goal line into the field of play AND then the loose ball crossed back into the end zone somehow but was not touched by anyone who was actually in the end zone before it went out of play in the end zone. This scene would be good for the highlights and perhaps a football follies film.
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