Mere days before the NFL playoffs are set to kick off, referees are reportedly being warned about a shadowy new trick that appears to be gaining a foothold with certain teams.
And no, shockingly, it’s got nothing to do with the New England Patriots.Instead, according to a Football Zebras report, it appears that multiple teams in the NFL have been partaking in the use of a small, unidentified object to aid in the kicking game. The NFL has reportedly warned the referees to pay extra attention to these foreign objects. In the 2022-2023 season, which is about to wrap up, Football Zebras identified at least three teams that appear to have used an illegal device to aid with kicking: The Philadelphia Eagles, Washington Commanders and the Detroit Lions. Of note, of those three teams, only the Eagles are playoff-bound this year. The first incident identified by Football Zebras was a game between the Eagles and NFC East rival New York Giants. In that game, Philadelphia holder Britain Covey was seen picking up a small object after kicker Jake Elliott booted the ball. In the clip below, you can see Covey clearly pick up a small white object off the ground after Elliott’s kick. It’s not clear what exactly Covey grabbed, but you can judge for yourself below: In a separate incident, you can see Lions punter Jack Fox (also acting as the holder here) do the same for kicker Michael Badgley. Incredibly, in that same game, the Commanders also were caught using some foreign object. Punter/holder Tress Way grabs a small object after a kick by Joey Slye. You can watch both incidents below: Whatever it is that is going on in the above clips, it’s safe to say that it’s breaking the rules. Articles 4 and 5 of Rule 11 – Section 4 in the NFL rulebook make it pretty clear that whatever it is that these three teams were seen doing is in direct violation of the rules. “An artificial or manufactured tee shall not be permitted to assist in the execution of a field goal,” Article 4 states. While an “artificial or manufactured tee” is a very specific foreign object, it’s not clear that that’s what was being used in the clips above. That’s a non-issue for Article 5. “No article of any type may be placed on the field, or used in any manner, to assist a player in the execution of a field goal and/or (PAT) attempt,” Article 5 reads. It seems inarguable that some sort of article was placed on the field to assist with kicking in the above clips, as observed by the slick way that the holder pockets the mystery object after the kick is off. Again, it’s not perfectly clear what was being used or how it was being used. But even a “target” for the holder to properly line up the football could mean the difference between a made field goal and a shank. That’s an advantage that the NFL will surely be looking at. It should be fascinating to see if this mysterious object will have any material impact on the looming playoffs. On Saturday, the Seattle Seahawks travel to San Francisco to play the 49ers. The Saturday night game will feature the Los Angeles Chargers going on the road to play the Jacksonville Jaguars. On Sunday, there are a trio of games, including the Miami Dolphins at the Buffalo Bills, the Giants at the Minnesota Vikings, and the Baltimore Ravens at the Cincinnati Bengals. The Wild Card round of the NFL playoffs concludes with a Monday night tilt between the Dallas Cowboys at the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Ravens, Bengals and Bills are all comfortable with their star kickers, so it seems unlikely that any of those three teams would be busted for nefarious placekicking techniques. But the other nine teams? The referees will have to keep an extra vigilant eye on those sneaky holders and any potential foreign objects used to help kick. This article appeared originally on The Western Journal.