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Old Tue Jun 17, 2008, 09:01am
Bob M. Bob M. is offline
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Location: Clinton Township, NJ
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REPLY: I'll admit, the Fed rule on ineligibles downfield is worded a little squirrelly. The first sentence is meant to restrict ineligibles from proceeding beyond the limit of the expanded neutral zone in all cases. It could probably be worded: "Under no circumstances may ineligibles advance beyond the expanded neutral zone on a legal forward pass play before a legal forward pass that crosses the neutral zone is in flight." The 'under no circumstances' would imply that even though engaged with a defender, he can't go beyond the ENZ.

The second sentence is fine.

The third sentence is the one that really requires some rework, IMHO. It says: "An ineligible is not illegally downfield if, at the snap, he immediately contacts a B lineman and the contact does not continue beyond the expanded neutral zone." That's tells us what's legal. But that doesn't specifically say that the inverse of the statement is also true, i.e. if he journeys into the ENZ without engaging a defender, then he is illegally downfield. But that really is the intention. If an ineligible goes beyond the neutral zone (even though still in the ENZ) without contacting a defender, before a legal forward pass is in flight, he has fouled. And Table 7-5 (#3) does nothing whatsoever to help clarify the intention.

The situation in the case play you cite is a violation both sentence #1 of the rule, and a violation of the intention of sentence #3 in the rule. I respectfully disagree with your conclusion that since it specifically called out that he was 3 yards beyond the NZ, that it "...kind of implies that if he had moved only 2 yards downfield there would have been no penalty." That would be akin to saying that if a case play identified a grab and twist of the face mask as a foul, that a grab without the twist would be legal (new NCAA rule notwithstanding).
Bob M.
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