PHOENIX – NFL owners have finished voting on the rules and bylaw changes proposed by the Competition Committee, essentially marking the end of the league’s annual meeting.
Among the things voted on was the elimination of the tuck rule – the rule that saved the Patriots’ 2001 postseason run. It is now a fumble if a passer loses possession as he attempts to bring the ball back to his body.
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady appeared to fumble on Jan. 19, 2002, in an AFC playoff game vs. the Raiders, but the play was reversed because of the tuck rule and the Patriots went on to defeat the Raiders en route to winning their first Super Bowl. The game became known as both the Tuck Rule Game and the Snow Bowl because it was played in a snowstorm in Foxborough.
The Patriots abstained from voting. Owner Robert Kraft said on Monday, “I love the tuck rule and forever will, and I know (longtime Raiders owner) Al Davis, may he rest in peace, is probably smiling.”
Kraft said then that he might have to abstain, citing his “great bond” with the largely obscure rule.
On Tuesday morning, when coach Bill Belichick was asked about the possible elimination of the rule, he noted that while the tuck rule went New England’s way in the postseason, it went against the Patriots in the regular season that year.
Playing the Jets at home in Week 2, Anthony Pleasant strip-sacked Vinny Testaverde on first-and-goal from the Patriots’ 10, and Richard Seymour recovered the fumble.
On review, however, the play was reversed under the tuck rule. Despite retaining possession and being so close to the goal line, the Jets didn’t score a touchdown but did get a field goal, tying the game at 3-3. Curtis Martin’s third-quarter touchdown gave New York a 10-3 win.
In the final tally of voting on Wednesday, 29 teams voted to eliminate the rule, the Steelers voted to retain it, and two teams – the Patriots and Redskins – abstained.
The Redskins likely abstained because their current general manager, Bruce Allen, was an executive with the Raiders from 1996 to 2003.