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Commentary: Time for NFL to pare down the rule book

By PAUL NEWBERRY, AP National Writer Published: November 26, 2012


Anderson, in perhaps the most obvious statement that will ever come from his lips, acknowledged the penalty “may be too harsh” and will be reviewed immediately.


Hey, while they're at it, here's a few more things the NFL needs to change or eliminate:

— The tuck rule. Why this one is still around — more than a decade after it reared its ugly head in a New England-Oakland playoff game — remains one of life's great mysteries. If a quarterback's arm is going forward when he loses the ball, it's an incomplete pass. If not, it's a fumble. Simple as that. Allowing a team to keep the ball because the QB lost control while trying to tuck it away is utter nonsense.

— A muffed ball can be recovered by the punting team, but not advanced. Apparently, this one stems from the theory that a returner who touches the ball but never has control of it didn't actually fumble. Hogwash. If the coverage team can recover the loose ball, they should be able to run with it. Period.

— Interference penalties. The NFL is always reluctant to copy the college game, but this is one case where it clearly should. When a defensive back interferes with a receiver, it should be a 15-yard penalty (as it is in college), not marked at the spot of the foul (the pro rule). Maybe if the defender flagrantly drags down a receiver, the current penalty could still be applied. Otherwise, there's no reason for interference — a debatable call in so many cases — to potentially result in a much worse penalty than a horrific personal foul (which is 15 yards). While they're at it, increase the penalty for defensive holding from 5 to 10 yards, but get rid of the automatic first down.

— Overtime. The NFL rightly decided a few years ago that it wasn't fair for a game to potentially be decided by a coin flip. Of course, they didn't just go with the obvious solution (allowing each team to have at least one offensive possession in overtime), coming up with a “modified sudden death” rule. If the receiving team scores a touchdown on its first possession, it wins the game. But if the team getting the ball first kicks a go-ahead field goal, the other team gets a possession. Another example of the NFL over-thinking a problem.

— Icing the kicker. Coaches have become enamored with the idea of trying to call a timeout right before an opponent attempts a game-winning kick, which is just plain silly. First of all, it rarely works. Secondly, it leads to far too many unnecessary delays at the most dramatic point in the game. If a coach wants to call a timeout to make a kicker think about it, he should do it before the play clock gets down to 10 seconds. After that, only the kicking team can stop it.

Any other suggestions are welcome.

Just send them straight to the NFL headquarters in New York City.

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