Romo Learns Excess Timeout Rules Along with the Rest of Us

I heard a commentator on the radio today suggest that Tony Romo would not have been called for a penalty for trying to call a time out before Dan Bailey’s game-winning field goal. The commentator’s reasoning was that referees are instructed not to grant the time out and that there is no penalty for the attempt to call the time out.

Bob Sturm’s story today says the same thing:

On Monday, the league cleared up the scenario with a clarification on the ruling of what might have happened: “Officials would not have granted Tony Romo a time out. They are instructed to ignore the request when a team has no time outs.” This renders my speculation on what might have been irrelevant as was any subsequent discussion on whether this would have been ruled a 5-yard delay of game or a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct. The league claims they would never have penalized Romo for that mistake.

However, Todd Archer of ESPN wrote a blog entry suggesting that Dallas would have been charged a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Here is the rule, which Archer also quotes:

Unsportsmanlike Conduct. An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker, will be considered unsportsmanlike conduct and will subject the offending team to a 15-yard penalty (See 12-3). This will apply to field goal or Try attempts.

Note: If an attempt is made to call a timeout in such situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout; instead, play will continue, and a penalty will be called, with customary enforcement. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced.

The rule seems unambiguous, but the comment from the league would indicate that officials would have ignored Romo’s request and just called a delay-of-game penalty. I thought perhaps the Official Case Book might settle things, but I don’t see anything that covers this scenario.

At any rate, we should still thank Mike Shanahan for making this an academic question.

  • davidh22

    At least it was third down, so if they were penalized 15 yards it would have been 3rd and 23 from the 39 yard line, and you’d think they could have gotten 5-10 yards back and tried a longer but still makeable (for Bailey) FG.  

  • Soulcape1

    I do not understand the confusion of this rule. It clearly states that this rule applies to Team B and only in the situation where they try to freeze the kicker. You can not interpret this any other way than the way that it is written. In the preface of the 2011 Rule Book, it describes:
    “The letter “A” in an approved ruling indicates the team that puts the ball in play, and its opponents are designated by the letter “B.””
    At the bottom of this rule it directs you to the unsportsmanlike like conduct call that would apply, which is on page 78 of the 2011 Rule Book:
    FREEZING THE KICKER
    (v) An attempt to call an excess or illegal timeout to freeze a kicker prior to a field-goal attempt or a Try attempt, when:
    (i) a team has already been charged a timeout during the same dead ball period; or
    (ii) a team has exhausted the three charged team timeouts that are permitted in a half.
    If an attempt is made to call a timeout in these situations, the officials shall not grant a timeout, play will continue, and a penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct shall be enforced. If a timeout is inadvertently granted, the penalty shall also be enforced.
     
    This rule only applies, once again, only in the situation where a team is attempting to “freeze a kicker”. An offense would never be accused of trying to freeze their kicker.
    I know it is not a rule that comes up often, but I hope this clears some of the confusion
     

  • Anonymous

    Thanks. I think it does make sense when you look at the language focusing on Team B. The possible ambiguity comes from this phrase: “An attempt to call an excess team timeout or to call a second timeout in the same dead-ball period by Team B in an attempt to “freeze” a kicker…” From the league’s statement and from your comments it is clear that the attempt to call an excess team timeout must come from Team B. When I first read the rule, I thought perhaps any attempt to call an excess timeout by either time would lead to the penalty.

  • Jason Neighbors

    Didn’t Parcells get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for trying to call a time out the team didn’t have? I can’t remember the situation. Or was it for trying to make a challenge when they were already out of challenges? My memory is fuzzy on it. I just remember is was a costly mistake.

  • Anonymous

    I can’t find a story about it, but I think Parcells got called for throwing a challenge flag when the call could not be challenged.  My vague recollection is that it came against the Jaguars in the opening game of the 2006 season.

  • Jason Neighbors

    I don’t think it was that game. I seem to remember it being a Sunday or Monday night game.