NFL Rule 3, Section 22, Article 2, Note 2. When [an offensive] player is holding the ball to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his arm starts a forward pass, even if the player loses possession of the ball as he is attempting to tuck it back toward his body. Also, if the player has tucked the ball into his body and then loses possession, it is a fumble
On January 19, 2002, in snowy-filled Gillette Stadium, the tuck rule's introduction to the NFL audience changed the course of NFL history. On the eventual game-tying drive of an AFC Divisional Round game, Tom Brady got cracked in his throwing shoulder by a blitzing Charles Woodson while pulling in a pump fake.
The hit dislodged the ball from Brady's grip, and was pounced on by Oakland, thus ending any hopes of the Patriots advancing to the AFC Championship. However, the officials intervened by overturning the play upon instant replay by citing the then-unknown tuck rule.
In the dozen years since, Oakland fans have harbored intense ill will towards the rule. Fans, coaches and players around the league have since joined the chorus of opponents to the tuck rule. According to NFL.com, the NFL Rules committee may be burying the tuck rule forever.
The NFL Competition Committee held a conference call Thursday to go over possible rule change proposals that will be discussed at the NFL Annual Meeting, which starts Sunday in Phoenix.
One item on the agenda is sure to be cheered by Oakland Raiders fans, although the notion probably will be seen as too little, too late.
The NFL will propose to eliminate "The Tuck Rule."
The change would make it so a player loses possession when he tries to bring the ball back to his body. (Yes, then Tom Brady's play should have been ruled a fumble in that case.) If the passer loses control while the ball is going forward, it's still incomplete. If he loses the ball while tucking, it's a fumble.
It still doesn't make much sense, considering that there was no irrefutable evidence to overturn the call. Bill Belichick's Super Bowls will always have an asterick beside them in the eyes of most observers, but what happened, happened. It's about moving forward and it's the right move to vanquish this rule from the books.