Unbeknownst to him, kicking the ball in the air might have cost quarterback Aaron Rodgers a chance to have his fateful fumble reversed in the Green Bay Packers’ 51-45 overtime loss Sunday to Arizona.
As Cardinals cornerback Michael Adams slammed into Rodgers, the ball came out of the quarterback’s hand at about the same time his arm was coming down. As the ball dropped down near his legs, Rodgers kicked at it with his right foot, causing it to pop up in the air and into the arms of linebacker Karlos Dansby, who returned it 17 yards for the winning touchdown.
According to a league spokesman, even though the ball didn’t hit the ground, it is a fumble and not an interception. And because it didn’t hit the ground, it is not subject to the infamous “tuck rule”, which states that a ball lost while the arm is in the process of coming down is an incomplete pass.
Had it hit the ground, the referee could have called an incompletion. Even if he didn’t call, it’s likely the replay official, which handles all challenges in the final 2 minutes of each half and overtime, could have reviewed it.
Randall Liu, NFC information manager, said in an e-mail that “had the ball hit the ground, it would’ve been subject to (instant) replay. And that would be a judgment call by referee Scott Green.”
Based on television replays, there was at least a reasonable chance that Green would have ruled Rodgers’ arm was moving forward at the time he was hit by Adams. As NFL director of officiating Mike Pereira said in a 2005 interview in the Washington Post, there’s not a lot of gray area.