It is my understanding the rouge doesn't count on kick-offs unless touched by the receiving team.
On a Medlock kickoff verses Montreal Friday night, the football skipped through the Montreal returner's hands in the field of play before making its way out the back of the end zone. Did this touching of the ball not constitute possession in the field of play and warrant a safety touch instead of a single?
I was a bit confused to see a single awarded and Montreal's football at the 35 yard line.
If anyone could clear that up with rulebook reference that'd be great.
As you said, the rouge doesn't count on kick-offs unless the opposing team touches the ball before it goes out of bounds in the endzone or the kick returner concedes the point in the endzone. To get a safety touch, the returner would have to leave the endzone and then go back and get tackled in the endzone
A safety is scored merely when a team after having possession in the field of play is then tackled or the ball becomes otherwise dead with possession in their own end zone.
Although a safety can be scored by gaining possession in the endzone, advancing the ball to the field of play, returning to the endzone and being tackled, all that needs to happen is possession in the field of play and followed by a dead ball with possession in the possessing team's endzone.
In Friday's game, the player didn't possess the ball in the end zone, enter the field of play, then return to the end zone. He touched the ball in the field of play and the ball became dead in the end zone. Why wasn't this a safety?
The only thing I could see is that touching the ball only results in possession once the ball goes out of bounds at which point it becomes the ball of the team to have last touched it at the point it went out of bounds which in this case was the dead ball line in the end zone. So it wasn't technically Montreal's ball until it went over the dead ball line and it only mattered that Montreal last touched it regardless of where they touched it. There was never possession so to speak. Possession is awarded on the next play at the point the ball went out and not at the moment the ball is touched. Does possession in live play rely on control of the football?
If this is the case, the result would be a single then Montreal's ball at the 35.
I suppose if the Montreal returner had caught the ball, controlled it in the field of play and then the ball were to somehow have become loose and made its way untouched over the dead ball line, we would have seen a safety.
To answer your question, DisplacedCatsFan, if it were a Safety Touch, the Cats would have their choice of 3 options -- 1) take possession at their own 35 yd. line. 2) Kick Off from their own 35 yd. line. 3) Have Montreal Kick Off from their 25 yd. line. A team, which scores a Safety Touch will almost always choose option #3.
The answers to understanding the ruling on the Kick Off in question lie in the definitions of "Possession" and "Safety Touch," copied here from the CFL Rule Book:
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.
Article 3 – Safety Touch
A safety touch is scored when the ball becomes dead in the possession of a team
in its own Goal Area, or touches or crosses the Dead Line or a Sideline in Goal as a
result of the ball having been carried, kicked, fumbled or otherwise directed from the
Field of Play into the Goal Area by the team scored against, or as a direct result of a
kick from scrimmage having been blocked in the Field of Play or Goal Area.
CFL Official Playing Rules 2011
After a safety touch, the options to the scoring team are to:
(a) Scrimmage at their own 35-yard line,
(b) kickoff from their own 35-yard line or,
(c) Accept a kickoff from the 25-yard line of the team who conceded the safety
For the play currently under discussion, it sounds like the interpretation was that the returner was never in possession of the ball, despite the fact that he touched it. In order for the Safety Touch criteria to be applied, it would be necessary for the returner to have gained possession of the ball.
I think the confusion stems from the fact that we've all seen instances where either the kicking or returning team on a kickoff gains possession by batting the ball out of bounds from the field of play, even when no player ever "gained possession". This play looks similar to a scramble for a loose ball after a fumble, so there is temptation for us to try to interpret it the same way we would interpret a fumble. The difference is that a fumble can only occur once a player has possession of the ball. It sounds like the rulebook is saying that a player on the receiving team who merely touches the ball after a kickoff is not deemed to have gained possession, even though his team would be awarded possession if the ball were to go out of bounds in the field of play. In the instance we are discussing, they are saying that the returner never gained possession, and because he never gained possession, the ball became dead in the goal area while not in his team's possession, and thus the criteria for a safety ("ball becomes dead in the possession of a team in its own Goal Area") were not satisfied