Sunday, November 4, 2012

PIT-NYG Forward Fumble: Defining the Recock

Referee Bill Leavy recently upheld a fumble call after consulting instant replay during the Steelers-Giants game. With 5:26 remaining in the 2nd quarter, Steelers quarterback Ben Roethlisberger attempted to pass from the Giants' 38-yard line as Giants defensive end Ositadimma "Osi" Umenyiora placed his hand and contacted Roethlisberger's throwing arm. After subsequent movement, the ball became loose and advanced to the Giants' 30-yard line, where it was recovered and returned for a touchdown by linebacker Michael Boley. After the ruling on the field, the Replay Official requested a review pursuant to NFL Rule 18-9 (Instant Replay, requiring that all scoring plays...fumbles must be reviewed). This rule requires the presence of "indisputable visual evidence" prior to reversing a decision. Most penalties, such as the uncalled infraction of clipping, are not reviewable.

During his review, Referee Leavy considered whether such evidence existed to justify reversing the ruling on the field of fumble. Rule 8-1-1-a specifies it is a forward pass if "the ball initially moves forward" or "if the passer is attempting to throw a forward pass, but contact by an opponent materially affects him, causing the ball to go backward, it is a forward pass." By this criteria alone, Leavy had ample evidence with which to overturn the ruling on the field of fumble.

However, Rule 8-1-1-c—the "recock rule"—arrested this reversal momentum. This provision specifies that if a "passer loses possession of the ball while attempting to recock his arm, it is a fumble."

Rule 3-2-7-1 (definitions) specifies that for a player to possess the ball, he is required to have "firm grip & control" of the football. Because "recock" is not defined in the NFL Rules Book, its ordinary definition is considered: "To lift; to be prepared to be triggered; to turn or twist upward or to one side."

Under the auspices of the recock rule, it appeared that after receiving contact, Roethlisberger's arm may have been lifted, turned or twisted upward or to one side in preperation of a pass. Furthermore, it is apparent that after contact, Roethlisberger may not have maintained firm grip & control of the football throughout the process of his pass attempt—including his recock.

Therefore, Rule 18-9's requirement of "indisputable visual evidence" was not satisfied, resulting in Leavy's ruling that the play on the field should stand, as opposed to a reversal (indisputable visual evidence to suggest the call was incorrect) or a confirmation (indisputable evidence to suggest the call was correct).

At the time of the upheld review, the Giants were leading, 13-10.

Wrap: Pittsburgh Steelers at New York Giants, 11/4/12
Video: Roethlisberger sacked and fumbles, a call which stands after instant replay review

15 comments :

Cricket said...

IMO (and I am not pretending to be a football rules expert), Roethlisberger lost control of the ball prior to attempting a pass or trying to tuck the ball; it was a good call by Levy.

Anonymous said...

So to be clear, we have a re-cock that happens prior to a tuck = fumble?

Gil Imber said...

A tuck requires, amongst other criteria, a passer's attempt to "tuck [the football] back toward his body" and the tuck rule (8-1-1-b[2]) specifies it is an incomplete pass if the passer loses possession as he is attempting his tuck. The recock rule specifies it is a fumble if the passer loses possession while attempting to recock his arm.

Note that in both scenarios, a tuck or recock does not have to actually be completed, the passer only must attempt to execute either action.

As Cricket mentions, it appears Roethlisberger lost possession (e.g., control) prior to any attempt at a tuck and, possibly, in the commission of a recock.

Anonymous said...

I just lost a lot of respect for you. He very clearly had control of the ball until he hit 1 of his linemen. There's no maybe's at all. That call was brutal and should warrant a suspension.

Anonymous said...

And for the record, the former VP of officiating says it was incomplete.

Anonymous said...

I think it's fairly clear he lost control of the ball after he got hit by the defender. Suspension for a missed judgment call? Yeah, and Sam Holbrook should be fired...

Anonymous said...

@1004pm, I take it you're talking about Mike Pereira. He panders to an audience (otherwise he'd have been fired by FOX long ago) - I mean, that determination about the ball becoming "loose" is not supported by rule or AR case play in TODAY'S NFL. It's possession, simple possession. Is the ball firmly gripped? Is it in control? No to one or both questions = NOT POSSESSED. Maybe when he worked it was about "loose," but not in 2012.

Anyway, what we all have to keep in mind is (and again, I have no idea why people have such a hard time understanding this) if Leavy is the referee and the NFL has referees do the instant replay review (in a max. window of 60 seconds) and make the determination, then we are going with LEAVY's judgment and that's it. And I think the video shows enough to suggest QB did not have that control after getting hit on the arm. I mean, the ball gets released SIDEWAYS before even hitting the OL and you can see Ben try and stop the ball from being released. That is NOT control!

The only question is WHEN did he lose control. We know what was the principal CAUSE of the entire sequence, but when precisely did he lose it. Honestly, this is like judging intent in baseball and something I can't see instant replay being used to really determine. I agree, there's insufficient evidence to overturn this call, just like there's insufficient evidence to say 100% it was correct. Inconclusive = it was right.

Leavy had no choice but to uphold the call.

Anonymous said...

I swear, some people need to learn the definition of the word "control"

"the ability to manage a machine or other moving object"
"the power to restrain something"

I mean, come on. "The power to restrain something"? If he had that, the ball would have never been released.

Anonymous said...

It took one look at the replay to conclusively see that he had the ball gripped in his hand. It then flew forward.

There's no excuse for botching a call this badly on a replay review.

Anonymous said...

@Anon 11:05


Watch the replay again. He maintains control of the ball until the ball contacts his offensive lineman's (#74) hand. It's clear as day.

Cricket said...

How many of you arguing he had control are Pittsburgh Steeler fans?

Anonymous said...

I'm not arguing anything. I'm stating an indisputable fact. The referee blew the call on replay, and that's not a matter of opinion. It's a fact.

wwjd said...

I'll come out right away and say I am a steelers fan but that was a fumble and even of it wasn't it's do close that given it was ruled a fuble on the field that unless it's clear the call on the field was wrong Bill Leavy had to stick with the call on the field

Troy said...

These comments once again proving that having replay review (in any sport) does not remove controversial calls from the game.

Anonymous said...

It stands a better chance of removing controversial calls when you actually get the calls correct on replay.

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