So what should happen with a bobbled fair catch?
September, 21, 2009
By Paul Kuharsky | ESPN.com
Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky
NASHVILLE, Tenn. -- When the Titans lost out on a flag because officials didn’t respond to an expired play clock quickly enough in their playoff loss to Baltimore in January, Jeff Fisher accepted the process.
The co-chair of the league competition committee didn’t look to rally support for any change to the way the rule works or is enforced.
But out of Sunday’s loss to Houston Fisher did find an issue he hopes will be discussed and altered.
When Jacoby Jones waived for a fair catch of a Craig Hentrich punt late in the fourth third quarter, Jason McCourty stopped short of the return man. When Jones bobbled the ball, McCourty snatched it and the Titans looked to be on the doorstep for a score that could have put them ahead 10 or 14.
Instead referee Walt Coleman called McCourty for interference with the opportunity to make a fair catch. He could have explained it to LP Field better, but a fair catch signal entitles the returner to catch the ball up until it hits the ground.
“Of course, I thought about it long and hard,” Fisher said Monday. “I hope it’s something that we will address next offseason. It just doesn’t look right and there is no way we can coach a player not to hit the return man or go after the ball once the ball bounces out of his hands. You can’t stand there and wait for it to hit the ground and then jump on it.
“And so, to me, I think we need to look at it. Again, it was the correct call considering our current rules.”
The Titans went from possession and first-and-goal at the Houston 9 to seeing a 15-yard penalty walked off and Houston retaking the ball at its 24.
It does seem unnatural to ask players covering a punt to back off a bobbled, juggled, muffed or dropped ball until it hits the ground.
But I also imagine there could be other difficulties for officials if they had to determine if a returner who waives for a fair catch fails to catch the ball cleanly, producing a moving ball that qualifies as fair game for the coverage teams.
What do you think? Alter it? Or leave it alone?