Current rules governing fumbles forward out of the end zone are broadly unpopular.
One of football’s most unpopular rules appears to be on its way out the door for this spring’s USFL and XFL seasons.
The USFL and XFL have revised their rules to eliminate the provision by which a forward fumble out of the end zone automatically results in possession for the other team, according to a Tuesday report from the NFL officiating website Football Zebras.
According to the report, a forward fumble out of the end zone in a USFL or XFL game will reportedly result in “no change of possession and the ball (reverting) back to the spot of the fumble”—a complete break with a rule in force in the professional game for a hundred years.
Additionally, “if the ball is touched by any player who is also touching the end line, the ball will return to the fumbling team,” according to the Football Zebras report.
The invocation of the rule in the NFL is relatively rare, but it has popped up at critical junctures to widespread disapproval. For instance, the Browns had a potentially critical touchdown taken off the board in a 2020 divisional playoff game against the Chiefs when wide receiver Rashard Higgins fumbled the ball forward out of the end zone.
The XFL and USFL will begin their seasons on Feb. 18 and April 15, respectively.