Former NFL official says the play clock is just a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule – CBSSports.com

The NFL rulebook is a confusing thing for most people. There are several rules that are subject to a whole lot of interpretation and cause consternation nearly every week. What is the definition of a catch? How do we determine an illegal hit in the open field? What actually constitutes roughing the passer? These are things that are discussed quite often.

But there’s a rule that has always seemed like it was cut-and-dry, but apparently is not. According to former NFL referee Terry McAulay, who now works as an officiating expert for NBC, the 40-second play clock is merely a guideline, and not a hard-and-fast rule. 

NBC NFL officiating expert Terry McAulay tell us that the play clock is just a guideline, not a hard-and-fast rule. The officials would have been marked negatively for stopping that play in Chiefs-Broncos after the snap. Did anyone know that?

— Andrew Perloff (@andrewperloff) October 3, 2018

Allow me to speak for everyone who watches football when I say: ummmmmm … WHAT?!?!?

This is crazytown, folks. The interpretation of the play-clock rule has never seemed like it was actually open to interpretation before. 

On almost every TV broadcast where there is a controversy about whether the ball was snapped before the play clock expired, you hear the same line: once the clock hits zero, the referee will then look to see if the ball has been snapped, and if there is a beat between the clock striking zero and the snap of the ball, it’s a delay of game. How many times in your life have you heard that explanation? The number is easily in the hundreds for me, in 30-ish years of watching football. 

But now, a former NFL referee says that’s not the case at

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