- Michael Rothstein, ESPN Detroit Lions reporter
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ALLEN PARK, Mich. -- Every once in a while, Walt Coleman will open his email and it will be there waiting for him. Usually from the western half of the United States, someone will find a way to contact him about one of the most infamous calls he's made as an official.
Coleman was the referee for the Jan. 19, 2002, "tuck rule " game between the New England Patriots and Oakland Raiders in the AFC divisional playoffs when he ruled that what looked like a fumble was not a fumble, citing the tuck rule.
"I was definitely known for that, still known for that," Coleman said Friday. "It doesn't go away. That play still doesn't go away. It still floats around and I still receive emails periodically from people who live out in the western part of the country.
"So yeah, if you've been in this league long enough, you're going to wind up getting involved in stuff like that."
The tuck rule, though, has now changed. Unlike in 2001, if a quarterback is now starting to tuck in and the ball comes loose, it is an actual fumble instead of a non-fumble, which is what happened in the New England-Oakland game.
So in essence, the rule was eliminated in 2013. But it still comes up.
"Well I don't know if the tuck rule was eliminated. It just got manipulated a little and so forth, so now the player doesn't have to tuck it all the way against his body for it to be a fumble," Coleman said. "Now, if he starts the tucking motion to move it back to his body, now it becomes a fumble.
"So what looks like a fumble, now, is going to be a fumble. And that was the problem back in the game that I had. I looked like a fumble to everybody except that's not what the rule said was a fumble. That was the change."
Every once in a while, Walt Coleman will open his email and it will be there waiting for him. Usually from the western half of the United States, someone will find a way to contact him about one of the most infamous calls he's made as an official.