- The Washington Times - Friday, November 21, 2008

The ground cannot cause a fumble, in case anyone in the NFL is wondering.

The ground cannot cause crazy shifts in momentum either.

The NFL rule book is fraught with tricky interpretations that can confuse the uninformed.

An unknowing Joe Gibbs called consecutive timeouts on the kicker of the Bills in the final seconds of a game last season. That was one timeout too many and resulted in a 15-yard penalty on the Redskins.

So Rian Lindell booted the game-winning field goal from 36 yards instead of 51 and left the Hall of Fame coach both red-faced and at a loss to explain this stunning omission on his part.

Football coaches like to preach the basics. Part of the basics possibly should include knowing the rules.

A football game that ends in a tie is said to be like kissing your sister.

That observation undoubtedly never reached the desk of Donovan McNabb and the rest of the NFL brethren who claimed ignorance with the tie rule.

Even the overweight Joes who wear the jerseys of their favorite players know the tie rule and the time-worn saying that goes with it.

“I’ve never been part of a tie,” McNabb said after Eagles and Bengals concluded their business in a 13-13 stalemate last Sunday. “I never even knew that was in the rule book. It’s part of the rules and we have to go with it. I was looking forward to the next opportunity to get out there and try to drive to win the game.”

There was no next opportunity for McNabb, just an unsatisfying outcome that put the playoff prospects of the Eagles in serious doubt.

McNabb has garnered plenty of defenders both in his locker room and elsewhere around the NFL.

It seems all too many players in the NFL know their way around a strip club but not the rules book.

That probably should not be surprising.

NFL players are not too good with society’s rules either.

If a player is not allowed to “make it rain” at a strip club that leads to gunplay, what is the benefit of a fat signing bonus?

Thanks to McNabb’s admission, NFL players have been duly taught that ties, while rare, do happen.

Andy Reid, the beleaguered coach of the Eagles, defended the knowledge shortfall of his quarterback and any other player who might be flummoxed by certain rules.

“I’ll take responsibility for that,” Reid said of McNabb’s lack of clarity.

Reid has no other choice, being the coach and all.

Not that a sixth quarter would have necessarily aided McNabb and the Eagles.

McNabb, who committed four turnovers, did all he could to forge a deadlock against a one-win team.

Now that he knows there are tie games in the NFL, he expressed another fear.

“I never knew in the professional ranks it would end that way,” he said. “I hate to see what would happen in the Super Bowl and the playoffs.”

Excellent point. NFL rules dictate that if two teams are still tied after completing the overtime period of the Super Bowl, the game is declared over and the Lombardi Trophy is returned to storage until the following season.

Fortunately for the NFL, Super Bowl games are often one-sided, and viewers are reduced to getting their entertainment fix from “wardrobe malfunctions” and advertisers with creative pitches.

Now that the tie thing is all cleared up - and with Reid taking responsibility for the mix-up - teams might want to consider the usefulness of holding remedial classes on all the game’s rules.

It is important to know that a receiver must have one foot inbounds to make a legal catch.

It is equally important to know that scoring on the last play of the game after recovering a botched lateral is against the rules, as the Steelers discovered.

If not, Reid accepts all the responsibility.

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