ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — Former NFL ref Jimmy Debell is back in front of the class in this week’s “Sports School”. This time around, the Rochester native breaks down the intricacies of fumbles. Things can get particularly interesting around the sidelines or in the end zone.
“In the NFL you have to get both feet or any body part in bounds while he has possession of the ball for it to be recovered in bounds. If any part of his body is touching the white, the out of bounds line, then it’s actually a fumble out of bounds and it would go back to the fumbling team,” says DeBell.
Where the ball is spotted then depends on which way the ball bounces after it is lost.
“A fumble backwards that goes out of bounds, it’s awarded to the team at that spot. So let’s say you fumble on the 20-yard line, the ball trickles back to the 15, then it’s the fumbling team’s ball at the 15,” says Debell. “Forward, it goes back to the spot of the fumble. So you’re kind of punishing the fumbling team for losing the ball.”
One of the most controversial rules in the game is what happens if the ball is fumbled as a player is diving to the pylon.
“If you forward fumble the ball out of bounds into the endzone, then you no longer keep possession of the ball, you lose possession of the ball and it goes to the defending team as a touchback on the 20. If it’s over the pylon, that would be considered out of bounds in the endzone. If the ball hits the pylon, the ball is determined to be out of bounds in the endzone.”
One other thing to keep in mind is that within the last two minutes of a half or on 4th down, only the fumbling play on offense can advance the ball. If another offensive player picks up the ball, the play is over.