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NFL approves new ruling regarding end-zone recoveries

The NFL sent an approved ruling to game officials on Thursday regarding a play in which there is a potential change of possession upon review but no clear recovery in the end zone.

The ruling reads as follows:


*Second-and-10 on A2. QBA1 is hit while attempting to throw a forward pass and the Referee rules it an incomplete pass. The ball hits the ground and bounces back into the end zone where it goes into a pile of players from both teams. The ball is clearly in the end zone. Replays show that it was a fumble. B challenges the play. *

*Ruling: Reviewable. Safety. There is no clear recovery by Team B, so a touchdown cannot be awarded. However, someone recovered the ball in the end zone, so it is at least a safety. The on-field ruling of incomplete is therefore reversed to a safety. *

Before this approved ruling, the play would have been reversed to an incomplete pass but because of the absence of a clear recovery, the offense would have retained possession and a TD or safety could not have been awarded.

However, with a pass/fumble play where the ball is clearly dead in the end zone, the correct ruling must either be a safety (if the fumbling team recovered) or a touchdown (if the defense recovered).

The approved ruling that has been added to the Instant Replay Casebook establishes that the outcome from a fumble (changed from an incomplete pass) will be a safety going forward when there is no clear recovery in the end zone, because the outcome of the play, if officiated correctly on the field, would have resulted in at least a safety for the defensive team.

There is no example of this play occurring or ruling being applied in an NFL game.

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