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What is the NFL’s rule 11-4-5 and why is the league cracking down on the Dallas Cowboys and others over it?

There are many tricks of the trade in any sport that pass under the radar and that’s exactly what the NFL is determined to stamp out across the league, after recent indiscretions drew attention.

What is the NFL’s rule 11-4-5 and why is the league cracking down on the Dallas Cowboys and others over it?
Isaiah J. DowningUSA TODAY Sports

While it may not seem like much to the casual observer, the reality is that anything which gives even the slightly advantage to a player or team shouldn’t be allowed. That being said, the enforcement of such a rule is going to be problematic.

NFL to clamp down on rule 11-4-5, but what is it?

According to reports, the NFL is set to crack down on the violation of a not so well-known rule. In the wake of several teams crossing the line, including the Dallas Cowboys during their recent Wild Card Round 31-14 win over the Tampa Bay Buccaneers on Monday Night. Known as rule 11-4-5, the regulation pertains to the use of any illegal and/or foreign objects by holders and states: “No article of any type may be placed on the field, or used in any manner, to assist a player in the execution of a field goal and/or [extra point] attempt.” Indeed, the league has now asked its officials to observe holders with a closer eye.

Most recently, we saw Cowboys holder Bryan Anger grabbing a blade of grass - something he’s done for some time - and then place it in front of him thereby marking the exact spot where he will put the football down when he’s holding it. Believe it or not, even that qualifies as a violation. Interestingly, Cowboys special teams coach, John Fassel, admitted he was unaware of the league’s stance until Anger told him. “I hadn’t seen any memo or discussion about it,” Fassel said. “I didn’t even know about it until our holder came up to tell me what happened. Supposedly, it was emphasized all season but it’s never been brought up to me my whole career.”

Rules are rules in the NFL

What’s worth noting here, is the fact that Fassel indicated he’s never had the issue raised before. That’s to say that neither has he considered an object used as a marker on the field illegal, nor was he told by an official that it was, in a career that’s been going since 2005. Be that as it may, the league appears to have seen enough which means that the Cowboys and all others - there definitely are others - will now have to be on their best behavior when it comes to their holders.

Funnily enough - though some might not find it humorous - Cowboys kicker Brett Maher, saw an opportunity to set an NFL record with four extra points go down the drain during Monday’s game. Just before the play, the official spoke with Anger, which understandably changed the way things went. “It’s not an excuse by any means, just very unique to have that happened,” Fassel said. To be clear, the Cowboys aren’t the only guilty party in this situation, there are varying teams in the league who have holders who do the same thing, including the Eagles’ Jake Elliot.

Jake Elliot weighs in on the situation

Speaking recently, the Eagles placekicker wasn’t combative about the rule, but he certainly didn’t think it was worth all the fuss. “We’ve always used something that’s within the rules,” Elliott said. “It’s just literally to mark the spot. It’s part of the playing surface, like a piece of grass or something like that.” One can tell, that Elliot like the above-mentioned Fassel has been doing this for quite some time, which makes it understandable that he might not see it as such a big deal, but with the league set to get heavier with its hand, it might be time to pay attention. “When we talked to them, we explained what we’re doing, and they saw what we were doing,” Elliott said. “Probably 30 teams do it around the league. It’s just a point of emphasis, and someone makes it bigger than it is.”

What other teams have violated the NFL’s rule 11-4-5?

Among those known to have run afoul of the league’s rule, they include the Kansas City Chiefs, Washington Commanders and the Detroit Lions according to reports. To be crystal clear here, the use of a blade of grass allows for the holder to mark the spot where he should place the ball, which in turn is exactly where his kicker wants it to be. Now that the league won’t be allowing this, will we see a decrease in field goal accuracy? That’s definitely going to be an interesting scenario to watch unfold. One can imagine that if that does in fact happen, we will likely have a debate on our hands very soon. Watch this space.


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