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Redskins Discuss the NFL Tie Rule

The face of a tie. (By Andy Lyons - Getty)

The thing about the flap over Donovan McNabb not knowing NFL games could end in a tie kind of comes down to this: one NFL player after another has told me that on their off days, they don't really like to watch football. Football is work. Their off days are their own.

That being the case, it makes sense that some guys might not be familiar with a rule that's different from high school and college rules and that hasn't been invoked since 2002. There's been only one tie in a decade. The tuck rule's been invoked more frequently. That's why Ben Roethlisberger said that half the players in the NFL wouldn't know ties were a possibility.

"I would say more than that," Mike Sellers told me today, during my locker room survey.

"I think it's less than 50 percent who actually know," agreed Antwaan Randle El.

I didn't get close to asking every member of the Redskins, but I did talk to 17 18 members of the active roster. Ten knew there could be ties. Five didn't. One knew there could be ties, but wasn't sure how playoff games were resolved in the event of a tie, one got the NFL rule right but the college rule wrong, and one hadn't known about NFL ties until he was involved in the league's previous tie.

"I think most quarterbacks probably know," said Shaun Alexander, who was familiar with the rule. "That's kind of weird that Donovan didn't know, but I think most other positions probably don't, they probably just play."

"I knew," said Lorenzo Alexander, who plays many of those other positions.

"I didn't, I thought you just had overtime, sudden death," Chris Wilson said. "Somebody's gonna score eventually. It ended after the second one, right?"

"It ended after the first one," Alexander said. "There's only one overtime."

"No double overtime?" Wilson asked. "I didn't know."

"All o-linemen know," Randy Thomas said. "We have a pretty high IQ. D linemen don't know--down, set, hut, they rush the passer. Come on."

Ryan Plackemeier remembered seeing a tie, but fellow kicker Shaun Suisham grew up in Canada not watching the NFL.

"I never gave it any thought," he said. "I just assumed it just kept going. When was the last time it happened, 2002? I didn't even watch the NFL in 2002."

That 2002 game involved the Falcons and the Steelers; that's when Randle El learned of the tie rule.

"I found out during the game," he told me, echoing what his ex-teammate Hines Ward said. "We have to score, we have to win during this quarter. Before that, I didn't know."

One defensive player told me that he thought tied games "went to another overtime," but he said he knew the obscure rule about fielding a kickoff out-of-bounds, which the announcers botched during a Jets game this month.

"See, y'all didn't even know that," he said, when a few media members looked confused. Including me. "There's a bunch of rules."

That was also Carlos Rogers's response to the McNabb flap. He hadn't known about ties, but thought the media was overhyping this story.

"There's a lot of rules you don't know," he said.T"here's a lot of rules that coaches don't know. There's a lot of rules you can see that referees done messed up on, they're supposed to know all the rules. So I wouldn't look at it as how people are looking at it, such a negative thing."

Khary Campbell, one of the special teams captains, was actually watching the Eagles game. He knew games could end in ties, but he was still momentarily confused.

"It didn't sink in that it was a tie until after I saw them coming across shaking hands," he told me. "I'm like, 'This is over with?' Because I've never seen it. I've never seen it watching a game with my own eyes and I watched the last quarter of that game and I just couldn't really believe it at first until I saw them clearing the field and shaking hands. I thought it was going to go to another overtime."

Sellers said he was glad McNabb had served as the guinea pig on that question, because he too didn't know about the rule.

"I always thought you just kept [playing] until somebody scored," he said. "I mean, that's how we did it in high school so I figured that's how we did it here, but I guess with TV time and stuff you can't do it."

I'll give the final word to Fred Smoot, who knew about the rule but agreed with several teammates that it wasn't surprising or a big deal that others didn't.

"I knew we could end in a tie, but that's something we don't want to do," he said. "Kind of feel like you lined up and played for nothing. I knew if the time ran out in overtime and nobody scored, it's a tie, they quit. NFL ain't gonna sit there and let you play 100 quarters like college....Like coaches always say, we play to win the game, point blank. So we're not worried about trying to understand that it would be a tie, because we don't want to have a tie. We want to win the game. So I understand where he was coming from and I think it was kind of blown out of proportion, because his mind wasn't on a tie, he wanted to win the game....But yeah, some of us do know about ties, some of us don't. Hope I never have to be a part of one."

By Dan Steinberg  |  November 19, 2008; 2:54 PM ET
Categories:  NFL , Redskins  
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Of course these guys are gonna have McNabb's back. But I don't buy for one second that any player who has played a full season in the NFL doesn't know the tie rule.

The refs make clear to the team captains at midfield at the beginning of every overtime the rules for OT. One quarter, sudden death, 2 timeouts each.

As someone who was there for the Sunday night tie against the Giants in '97 (the gus frerotte helmet banging game), which cost us the playoffs by 1/2 game, I can't fathom any fan or player not knowing this rule.

There's a reason every sports pundit in the country is going nuts this week about McNabb's comment: EVERYBODY KNOWS THAT RULE!

Posted by: Barno1 | November 19, 2008 3:30 PM | Report abuse

I remember the tie rule all too well....1997 Skins Giants .. division still in doubt...Gus Frerotte does his head butt..penalty pushed back field goal attempt (westbrook taking off helmet on field...learned that rule that night too)that woulda won game....

Posted by: joeyskins | November 19, 2008 3:35 PM | Report abuse

OK, players may not, and likely do not read the papers or follow games. Totally understandable.

But you'd think they'd look at standings. And there's three columns there:


The T column is usually filled with 0's, but still, players don't ask why there's a Tie column, or what the T is for?

Posted by: kolbkl | November 19, 2008 3:47 PM | Report abuse

Point blank, Fred's right. Point blank.

Posted by: dmorgan6617 | November 19, 2008 6:12 PM | Report abuse

Gus Frerrote knows all about ties. That infamous head-butt game against the Giants ended in a tie.

Wait, now that I think about it, Frerrote probably forgot the rule after slamming his head into a wall.

Posted by: adelosr1 | November 19, 2008 7:35 PM | Report abuse

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