Monday, December 15, 2008

Rule 15, Section 9: Instant Replay

In the aftermath of Sunday's game between the Steelers and Ravens there seems to be a great deal of interest in the official NFL rules governing both a touchdown and instant replay. The definition of a touchdown has already been posted in our postgame commentary, but as a public service here is the full-text of the NFL's official rules on instant replay (note: While I have altered some of the formatting of the document, in order to enhance readability, none of the actual text has been changed):

Section 9 Instant Replay
The League will employ a system of Referee Replay Review to aid officiating for reviewable plays as defined below. Prior to the two-minute warning of each half, a Coaches’ Challenge System will be in effect. After the two-minute warning of each half, and throughout any overtime period, a Referee Review will be initiated by a Replay Assistant from a Replay Booth comparable to the location of the coaches’ booth or Press Box. The following procedures will be used:

Coaches’ Challenge. In each game, a team will be permitted two challenges that will initiate Referee Replay reviews. Each challenge will require the use of a team timeout. If a challenge is upheld, the time out will be restored to the challenging team. A challenge will only be restored if a team is successful on both of its challenges, in which case it shall be awarded a third challenge, but a fourth challenge will not be permitted under any circumstances. No challenges will be recognized from a team that has exhausted its time outs. A team that is out of time outs or has used all of its available challenges may not attempt to initiate an additional challenge.
Penalty: For initiating a challenge when all of a team’s time outs have been exhausted or when all of its available challenges have been used: Loss of 15 yards.

Replay Assistant’s Request for Review. After the two-minute warning of each half, and throughout any overtime period, any Referee Review will be initiated by a Replay Assistant. There is no limit to the number of Referee Reviews that may be initiated by the Replay Assistant. His ability to initiate a review will be unrelated to the number of time outs that either team has remaining, and no time out will be charged for any review initiated by the Replay Assistant.

Reviews by Referee. All Replay Reviews will be conducted by the Referee on a field-level monitor after consultation with the other covering official(s), prior to review. A decision will be reversed only when the Referee has indisputable visual evidence available to him that warrants the change.

Time Limit. Each review will be a maximum of 60 seconds in length, timed from when the Referee begins his review of the replay at the field-level monitor.

Reviewable Plays. The Replay System will cover the following play situations only:

(a) Plays governed by Sideline, Goal Line, End Zone, and End Line:

1. Scoring Plays, including a runner breaking the plane of the goal line.

2. Pass complete/incomplete/intercepted at sideline, goal line, end zone, and end line.

3. Runner/receiver in or out of bounds.

4. Recovery of loose ball in or out of bounds.

(b) Passing Plays:
1. Pass ruled complete/incomplete/intercepted in the field of play.

2. Touching of a forward pass by an ineligible receiver.

3. Touching of a forward pass by a defensive player.

4. Quarterback (Passer) forward pass or fumble.

5. Illegal forward pass beyond line of scrimmage.

6. Illegal forward pass after change of possession.

7. Forward or backward pass thrown from behind line of scrimmage.

(c) Other Detectable Infractions:

1. Runner ruled not down by defensive contact.

2. Runner ruled down by defensive contact when the recovery of a fumble by an
opponent or a teammate occurs in the action that happens following the
fumble.
Note 1: If the ruling of down by contact is changed, the ball belongs to the recovering player at the spot of the recovery of the fumble, and any advance is nullified.
Note 2: If the Referee does not have indisputable visual evidence as to which player recovered the fumble, the ruling of down by contact will stand.
Note 3: This does not apply to quarterback pass/fumbles, complete/incomplete passes,
or the ruling of forward progress.


3. Forward progress with respect to a first down.

4. Touching of a kick.

5. A field goal or Try attempt that crosses below or above the crossbar, inside or outside the uprights when it is lower than the top of the uprights, or touches anything.

6. Number of players on the field.

7. Illegal forward handoff.

Note: Non-reviewable plays include but are not limited to:

1. Status of the clock

2. Proper down

3. Penalty administration

4. Runner ruled down by defensive contact (not involving fumbles)

5. Forward progress not relating to first down or goal line

6. Forceouts

7. Recovery of loose ball in the field of play

8. Field goals that cross above either upright without touching anything.

9. Inadvertent Whistle

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