February 29, 2024


A rule that has frustrated teams and fans alike in the NFL might be gone for good next season. 

Fumbles in the end zone resulting in touchbacks have been debated as among the worst rules in sports.

It’s a rule that has been discussed at length, just not by the league. 

That’s about to change, according to Troy Vincent Sr., NFL executive vice president of football operations.

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Justin Jefferson fumbles near end zone

Justin Jefferson (18) of the Minnesota Vikings fumbles the ball through the end zone for a touchback during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

Following each season, the league’s owners and executives discuss potential rule changes that are voted on for the next year. For example, a fair catch on kickoffs — Vincent said this has the potential to be done away with too — was a recent one that was voted upon. 

The issue with the rule for end zone fumbles is it’s not consistent with how fumbles anywhere else on the field by an offensive player are called. When a ball is fumbled and goes out of bounds anywhere else, possession remains with the offensive team. 

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

Troy Vincent in 2017

Troy Vincent speaks at the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, Calif., May 1, 2017. (David Paul Morris/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

It happened earlier this season in a game between the Minnesota Vikings and Philadelphia Eagles, which was shown on national TV Week 2. 

Vikings star wide receiver Justin Jefferson caught a pass and looked to reach into the end zone. However, he fumbled the ball while being tackled, and it crossed the goal line and went out of bounds. 

Instead of the Vikings getting the ball back at the 1-yard line, it was ruled a touchback, and the Eagles got the ball. 

“Man…touchbacks are the f—ing worst,” ESPN personality and former NFL punter Pat McAfee tweeted at the time of Jefferson’s fumble. 

Justin Jefferson fumbles ball through end zone

Justin Jefferson (18) of the Minnesota Vikings fumbles the ball through the end zone for a touchback during the second quarter of a game against the Philadelphia Eagles at Lincoln Financial Field Sept. 14, 2023, in Philadelphia. (Kevin Sabitus/Getty Images)

How exactly the NFL enforces situations like this will need to be ironed out. 

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But the fact Vincent mentioned it will be discussed is a step in the right direction for many who find the rule to be outlandish. 



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