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League not commenting on possible changes to 12 men penalty

Tom Coughlin

New York Giants head coach Tom Coughlin holds up the Vince Lombardi Trophy during the team’s NFL football Super Bowl parade in New York, Tuesday, Feb. 7, 2012. The Giants returned from their Super Bowl win to a celebration the likes that only New York can throw: a ticker-tape parade in the Canyon of Heroes on Broadway, where the city has honored stars for almost a century. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)


At some point soon, a video will be posted in the right rail with a PFT (Almost) Live take on the late-game penalty called against the Giants for having 12 men on the field.

Apart from whether Tom Coughlin is now the anti-Brad Childress, using an extra man to his advantage in a key moment of a fairly important game, the question now becomes whether the league will remove the incentive to send an extra defender onto the field in such moments, where the five yards becomes meaningless and the free play is easier to stop, what with the 12 men on the field, and time gets sucked off the clock.

Here’s the key language from Rule 5, Section 1, Article 1: “The game is played by two teams of 11 players each. If a snap, free kick, or fair-catch kick is made while a team has fewer than 11 players on the field of play or the end zone, the ball is in play, and there is no penalty. If a team has more than 11 players on the field of play or the end zone when a snap, free kick, or fair-catch kick is made, the ball is in play, and it is a foul.”

The penalty is fairly tame: “Loss of five yards from the previous spot.”

Given the text of the rule and the penalty, why stop at 12 men? Send 13. Or 14. Or 20. Regardless, the penalty will be only five yards.

“There is no other penalty for too many men on the field,” the league tells PFT via email. “The Competition Committee agenda for the off-season is in the process of being formulated. We are not going to comment on it at this point.”

That’s fine, but someone needs to add this item to the agenda. Either Coughlin is brilliant, or he has discovered plutonium by accident.

So when the clock is a factor late in a game, use extra defenders. As long as the penalty doesn’t happen on the final play, the tactic serves only to chew up time.