The “Justin Jefferson Rule” Could Take Effect in Offseason

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Do you recall the momentum-swinging gaffe that doomed the Minnesota Vikings at the Philadelphia Eagles earlier this season?

It could be the last of a dying breed.

The “Justin Jefferson Rule” Could Take Effect in Offseason

The NFL will reexamine its touchback rule involving fumbles in the endzone this offseason, seemingly a direct response to this transaction in September.

The Eagles took possession of the ball at their own 20-yardline, stifling any Vikings’ impetus in that moment and the rest of the game.

Jefferson Rule
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The 33rd Team’s Ari Meirov tweeted Wednesday, “Potentially significant: NFL executive Troy Vincent said today that the league will look into the play where the offensive player’s fumble through the end zone equals a touchback. That will be discussed in the offseason.”

It is unclear how the rule would change, but a few theories exist.

A New Wrinkle
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Perhaps the fumbling team — so, the offense — would retain possession at the 1- or 2-yardline, ending the monstrosity of giving the other team the ball altogether. That change would certainly favor the offense and effectively make an endzone fumble a nothingburger.

A fairer alternative might be awarding the fumbling team possession of the ball — but back at the 20-yardline. This could be perceived then as a 19- or 20-yard penalty for dropping the ball. The league would have to decide if the offense received a fresh set of downs or if, for example, it became 2nd and 21 from the 20-yardline.

Don’t Expect a Gimme as Vikings Host Da Bears
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There are several details to ponder, but at least the league’s brass is trending in the right direction. For the Vikings, any team, or player, it’s absurd to strip possession of the ball totally. The rule is archaic.

The NFL rulebook currently states, “If a ball is fumbled in the field of play, and goes forward into the opponent’s end zone and over the end line or sideline, a touchback is awarded to the defensive team.”

An era might’ve existed when that made sense, but it is long gone. It’s also worth noting that a proposed rule change would affect all teams and players equitably. It isn’t a pro-Vikings or pro-anything ordeal.

Top Storylines for 2nd
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ProFootballTalk’s Mike Florio wrote Wednesday about the existing fumble-touchback rule, “Chris Simms and I have argued about this for years. He regards the end zone as protected territory. He calls it ‘North Korea.’ Lose possession in forbidden land, and there’s a price to pay.”

“At a time when the NFL is trying to maximize scoring, this rule becomes an impediment to the broader objective. As a result, it’s time to liberate North Korea,” Florio added.

There is no guarantee the rule will be changed, but at the very least, a discussion is on the docket for NFL owners.


Dustin Baker is a political scientist who graduated from the University of Minnesota in 2007. Subscribe to his daily YouTube Channel, VikesNow. He hosts a podcast with Bryant McKinnie, which airs every Wednesday with Raun Sawh and Sal Spice. His Vikings obsession dates back to 1996. Listed guilty pleasures: Peanut Butter Ice Cream, ‘The Sopranos,’ Basset Hounds, and The Doors (the band).

All statistics provided by Pro Football Reference / Stathead; all contractual information provided by OverTheCap.com.

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