Teams, Refs Baffled by Obscure NFL Rules
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 24, 2008 12:12 PM CST
Eli Manning listens as referees discuss a play in this file photo.   (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)
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(Newser) – Eric Bassey was sure it was pass interference. He’d been tackled before the ball came anywhere near him on a fake punt attempt. But the flags stayed in the referees’ pockets, thanks to Note No. 5 under Article 5 under Section 2 under Rule 8 on page 54 of the rulebook: “Whenever a team presents an apparent punting formation, defensive pass interference is not to be called for action on the end man on the line of scrimmage,” one of many obscure rules that often trip up even bright NFL minds.

"There's so many obscure rules," said one veteran long-snapper. "I don't know how the referees know them, and they do it for a living." The rulebook is so thick—the online version runs 112 pages—that even officials miss some details. But the league’s vice president of officiating says the complications are necessary, and that every rule is there for a reason. Of course, “I don’t read James Michener at night,” he says. “My reading has always been the rule book.”