Rules will change from year to year, and I will update the interpretations in So You Think You Know Football? below. The year that the rule change was made appears as a superscript.

Chapter 1: Pregame

  • Deflate-gate controversy (p. 7) — The suspension of Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was reinstated and was served in the first 4 games of the 2016 season. The NFL won on an appeal of an earlier trial verdict that vacated the suspension.2016

Chapter 2: Kickoffs

  • Kickoff formation (p. 21–22) — Question #6 is changed under new formation rules required for the kickoff. While a 9-man kickoff formation was legal, the new formations require 5 players on either side of the ball, which is 11 when counting the kicker. Also changed from the description provided: on either side of the ball, 2 players must be lined up between the hashmarks and the yard-line numerals, 2 players must be outside the numerals, and a 5th player may be in either zone. Additionally, everyone but the kicker may line up no more than 1 yard behind the kicker’s restraining line.2018
  • Short free kick (p. 22) — The scenario presented in Question #7D would be the receivers’ ball at the 37, after the 5-yard penalty is assessed. The rule change removes the possibility of a re-kick. In this case, if the ball is not recovered by either team and remains in-bounds, it is awarded to the receiving team.2016
  • Kickoff into the end zone (p. 24–25) — Under drastic kickoff rule reforms, the scenario presented in the 1984 Giants-Rams game would be an automatic touchback today, and not a kicking team touchdown. Once the ball touches the ground in the end zone, it is a touchback, unless it was previously touched by a player.2018

Chapter 3: Clock

  • 10-second runoff (p. 39–40) — The circumstances as to how and when 10-second runoffs are applied remain the same as listed in the book, except that it will apply in situations after the two-minute warning, not just the final minute of the half.2017
  • 10-second runoff for replay (p. 39–40) — A rule clarification was added regarding a runoff that is assessed after a replay review with less than 2:00 remaining in the half. If the clock was stopped, but the result of the replay reversal would have a running clock, a 10-second runoff is assessed to make up the difference in the rulings. The rulebook revision states that the defense is not permitted to decline that runoff. The defense, as well as the offense, can only avoid a runoff if they use a charged timeout. The option to decline a runoff without a timeout remains for the defense in all other runoff situations.2016
  • Injury timeouts (p. 44) — A rewording of the injury timeout rule was added before the 2015 season. A team is charged with a timeout for an injury that occurs after the two-minute warning. The exceptions are if the previous play had a change of possession, a successful field goal, or an extra-point attempt or if the injury was caused by a foul. The rule extends the exception to plays where a touchdown or safety is scored.2015
  • Medical timeouts (p. 44) — The medical timeout rule did not exist at the time I was finalizing the book. Trained spotters are assigned to each game to observe players exhibiting disoriented states for possible head injuries. These medical timeouts are not counted as injury timeouts, and the play clock and game clock (if running) resume from where it was stopped. A referee or team trainer who intervenes in a potential head-injury situation is handled as a standard injury timeout. More information at Football Zebras.2015
  • Calling timeouts consecutively or when you have none (p. 48) — In the discussion of calling timeouts, the scenario states: Calling timeout when you don’t have the ability to call one is not a penalty, unless it occurs to “ice” a kicker. This remains true, but if an official inadvertently grants a 4th timeout or 2nd consecutive timeout to a team, it is a delay of game penalty. The tactic of icing the kicker with a phantom timeout continues to be a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct foul, and remains as stated in the book.2016

Chapter 4: Basics of offense

  • Illegal simulated substitution (p. 64) — The scenario in Question #17 is a warning before assessing a foul. It is still in the referee’s discretion if there is a violation, whether on a situation that is warned or following a warning. Table 4.3 should reflect Illegal simulated substitution (in-and-out player) is after a warning.2017
  • Point-after-touchdown conversions (p. 84–89) — The procedures for the extra-point conversion rule change were not finalized when the book went to print. All of the information in the book is correct, but a post with “Everything you need to know about the new point-after-touchdown rules” is on Football Zebras. These rules were initially passed for the 2015 season only; they are now permanent.2015

Chapter 5: In the end zone

  • Game-ending conversions (p. 88–89) — If a team scores a touchdown on the final play of the game and is in the lead, the extra-point attempt is not taken, even though it would be possible for the defense to score on the play. In Questions 25 and 26, the three scenarios presented would have the final score following the touchdown, and no extra-point attempt, under the new rule.2018

Chapter 6: Scrimmage kicks

  • Fair-catch kick (p. 100–101) — The formation rules of the kickoff mentioned above also apply to fair-catch kicks.2018
  • Leaping and blocking field goals (p. 104) — The scenario presented in question #20 is changed. A player may not run forward and leap over the line of scrimmage on kick-block attempts. A player may run forward and leap without crossing the line of scrimmage and without making contact with another player. Also, a defensive lineman may leap and cross the line of scrimmage and may contact other players, because there is no running start to the leap.2017

Chapter 7: Passing and possession

  • Illegally touching a pass, returning in bounds (p. 111–12) — In question 10, the answer is altered under a current rules change. A receiver who steps out of bounds, comes back in, and is the first to touch a pass is still assessed an illegal touching foul. The penalty is now a loss of down at the previous spot, essentially treating it as if it is an incomplete pass. The scenario presented in question 10 on a two-point conversion would result in a failed conversion without a retry attempt, but under the rules of the day, a retry attempt was allowed because the penalty was not a loss of down.2016
  • Offsetting pass interference (p. 117) — The scenario presented to be offsetting pass interference, the receiver is the one committing the pass interference just beyond the line of scrimmage, and the defender flagged for pass interference once the ball is in the air. The defense cannot be charged with pass interference before the ball is in the air, but it can be flagged for a defensive holding or illegal contact foul.
  • Pass interference reviews (p. 117) — I wrote a seemingly prescient statement about the possibility of pass interference being reviewable that “it may be a tight call in a huge game that becomes the tipping point for the Competition Committee to take action.” The Competition Committee did make pass interference reviewable in 2019, but the disastrous results lead to it being revoked in 2020.
  • Process of the catch (p. 119–21) — The provision that a receiver must maintain possession through to the ground is eliminated as long as he has possession long enough to have the ability to perform an action common to the game. The incomplete passes involving Calvin Johnson and Dez Bryant are catches under today’s rules.2018

Chapter 8: Penalty enforcement

  • Eject on 2 unsportsmanlike conduct fouls (p. 135–36) — In question 7, the scenario where Raiders defensive Warren Sapp gets multiple unsportsmanlike conduct fouls between downs, the answer is now changed. That play would now result in an automatic ejection after the second unsportsmanlike conduct foul. If, after ejection, a player (and, effective 2017, a coach or bench personnel) continues to commit unsportsmanlike conduct fouls, they will still be assessed, but a rule change makes the yellow card/red card rule from soccer an NFL rule.2016
    The unsportsmanlike acts are limited to:

    • Throwing a punch, forearm, or kicking without making contact
    • Abusive or threatening language towards an opponent or official
    • Baiting or taunting acts.
  • Penalty on a scrimmage kick (p. 141) — To expand on the scenarios that are presented, roughing the kicker and running into the kicker are not counted as “post-possession” fouls on scrimmage kicks, even though they may occur with the ball in the air. They are enforced from the previous spot.2015

Chapter 9: Unsportsmanlike conduct and personal fouls

  • Celebration fouls (p. 149–50) — The league allowed celebrations to include choreographed dances, group celebrations, and to use the ball as a prop in a celebration. Actions directed at an opponent or are clearly in poor taste (machine-gun salutes, sexually suggestive gyrations, etc.) are still considered taunting, and remain a foul. A player may go to the ground in a celebration, so question #2 is moot as a result. The second scenario presented under question #3 (the Kansas City play) does not apply, as group celebrations are allowed.2017
  • Horse-collar tackles (p. 154–55) — The area that constitutes a horse-collar tackle now also includes pulling a runner from the nameplate area of the jersey.2016

Chapter 10: Replay

  • Centralized replay — I stated that it was “fairly certain the NFL is moving toward a centralized replay system,” and that is, in fact, what occurred. The referee, watching via a tablet computer, will coordinate with the league headquarters, but the designated person in headquarters will make the replay decision. Question #10 has a scenario where the replay equipment malfunctions, which would not happen exactly as stated with the new equipment. Under the new decision protocol, the following procedures apply for equipment malfunctions:
    • If contact is lost with the league office, they have 1 minute to restore the connection, and then the referee and replay official can make the decision
    • If the equipment in the replay booth malfunctions, then they will lose the ability to confirm scores and possession and to call for booth reviews without any contingency plans for headquarters to intervene.
    • If the referee cannot view the play, the replay could proceed if the referee can communicate with the replay official
  • In question #11, the referee is no longer the primary decision maker, and the 60-second time limit begins when the referee is handed the replay tablet. Before accepting the tablet, the referee is to confer with the covering officials and relay any pertinent information to the representative who is reviewing the play.2017

Chapter 12: Overtime

  • Shorter overtime — The overtime period for preseason and regular season games has been reduced to a maximum of 10 minutes. The scenario in question #3 still applies: if the overtime period expires prior to any additional possessions granted by the rules are completed, the game ends, unless it is a postseason game. In the postseason, an unlimited number of 15-minute overtime periods are played, just as stated in the book.2017
  • Defensive score when in the lead (p. 185–86) — If a team is trailing by 3 points in overtime, and the defense recovers the ball, they are allowed to pad their score if the play ends in a touchdown. The restriction that is mentioned was removed from the rules, so the result of the play counts just the same as any other play. Similarly, a safety may also be scored by the trailing team when the defense gains possession, such as when a cornerback retreats into his end zone with the ball. The same restriction that is mentioned in that context is also removed.2017

Appendix: Penalty enforcements

  • A short free kick is in the list of 5-yard penalties with the provision: requires a rekick. A revision to the rulebook changes that provision to possession awarded to receiving team.2016
  • Illegal touching of a forward pass remains a 5-yard penalty by adding: by an ineligible receiver due to his position.2016
  • Under Miscellaneous Situations, it now should include illegal touching of a forward pass by a receiver who was out of bounds (loss of down from the previous spot).2016
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