11 NFL Rules Named After People

New rules in the National Football League, as in any sport, are often enacted in response to repeated on-the-field actions or bizarre incidents involving a specific player or coach. These rules commonly take the name of the individuals indirectly responsible for their creation. Here are 11 such rules you can bring up during today's conference championship games.

1. Bill Belichick Rule

Since 1994, NFL quarterbacks have been permitted to wear speakers in their helmets, enabling coaches on the sideline to communicate plays to them without the use of hand signals. Beginning in 2007, lime-green stickers were used to mark these radio-equipped helmets. During the 2008 offseason, the NFL passed a rule that allowed one defensive player on the field to have a speaker in his helmet. The season before, Bill Belichick and the New England Patriots were fined for videotaping a game against the New York Jets from an unauthorized location in order to learn their defensive hand signals. “If you didn’t have any signals, it wouldn’t have happened,” former Dallas Cowboys head coach Wade Phillips said of the Spygate scandal. “I’m just happy to get something passed. That way you don’t have to worry about it. People were putting towels up in front of people. You shouldn’t have to play football that way.” The Patriots voted in favor of the proposal.

2. Bronco Nagurski Rule

The Bronco Nagurski Rule was enacted after a controversial finish in the 1932 NFL championship game between Nagurski’s Chicago Bears and the Portsmouth Spartans. At the time, a forward pass was only legal if it was thrown from at least five yards behind the line of scrimmage. After Nagurski was stuffed twice on runs up the middle in a tie game, he took a few steps back and threw a pass to Red Grange for a touchdown. Portsmouth’s coach argued that Nagurski wasn’t five yards behind the line of scrimmage when he threw the pass, but the call stood and the Bears went on to win 9-0. The following season, the league declared that forward passes could be made from anywhere behind the line of scrimmage.

3. Ken Stabler Rule

In 1979, the NFL enacted a rule in response to a play during the 1978 season that became known as “The Holy Roller.” With five seconds remaining and the Oakland Raiders trailing the San Diego Chargers by six points, Oakland quarterback Ken Stabler dropped back to pass from the San Diego 23-yard line for an apparent last-ditch heave into the end zone. Stabler was pressured, however, and in an effort to avoid a sure sack, intentionally fumbled the ball forward. The ball rolled to Raiders fullback Pete Banaszak, who kicked the ball forward to tight end Dave Casper. Casper dribbled the ball into the end zone before falling on it for the winning touchdown.

The resulting rule, which is informally known as the Ken Stabler or Raider Rule, prohibits an offensive player other than the player who fumbled the ball from recovering or advancing a fumble on fourth down or on any down in the final two minutes of a half. If another offensive player recovers the ball, it is placed back at the spot of the fumble.

4. Emmitt Smith Rule

In 1997, the NFL enacted Player Conduct Rule 12, Section 3, Article 1, which prohibits a player from removing his helmet while on the field. The rule was informally named after Smith, the Hall of Fame running back who had a habit of removing his helmet to celebrate touchdowns—including after the TD he scored on his first carry of the 1995 season. “I had just come off a serious injury, and all I read about was how I supposedly had lost a step, that I was on the down side of my career,” Smith told the Dallas Morning News. “I went 60 yards on my first carry and my hamstring didn’t pull. I was excited.”

Smith was flagged for removing his helmet during the first season that the rule was enforced. “Is it a badge of honor?” Smith told the Austin American-Statesman. “No, it’s not.”

5. Greg Pruitt Rule

Cleveland Browns running back Greg Pruitt was one of several NFL players who wore tear-away jerseys during the 1970s as a sneaky means of shaking off would-be tacklers. Pruitt rushed for 1,000 yards for three consecutive seasons from 1975-77. “For it to be effective, you couldn’t wear anything under it,” Pruitt told Cleveland Magazine. “It got pretty cold playing on the lakefront.”

The league banned tear-away jerseys in 1979. Pruitt was named to five Pro Bowls and won a Super Bowl with the Raiders in 1983.

6. Hines Ward Rule

In 2009, the NFL enacted a rule that prohibits blindside blocks that come from the blocker’s helmet, forearm, or shoulder and land to the head or neck area of the defender. The rule is informally known as the Hines Ward Rule, after the Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver who established a reputation for leveling unsuspecting defenders and broke Keith Rivers’ jaw with a vicious block in 2008. “It’s kind of funny because week in and week out, that’s all we see is highlights of somebody getting blown up by a defensive player,” Ward told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “In my case it’s shunned or doesn’t look good or makes me a dirty player. I don’t do anything different than what they do to offensive players.”

7. Lester Hayes Rule

In 1981, the NFL banned the use of Stickum, a sticky substance used to improve grip that was popularized by Oakland Raiders cornerback Lester Hayes. During the 1980 season, including the playoffs, the substance helped Hayes haul in 19 interceptions. "You practically had to pry the ball loose from him whenever he got his hands on it," Raiders linebacker Ted Hendricks said of Hayes in a 2007 interview with ESPN’s Jeffri Chadiha.

8. Phil Dawson Rule

During a 2007 game in Baltimore, Dawson’s unusual 51-yard field goal led to the adoption of a new rule. Dawson’s kick, which tied the game, was initially ruled no good, as the ball deflected off the left upright and down off the stanchion support post behind the crossbar before bouncing back over the crossbar and into the end zone. While replay rules did not allow for the review of field goals at the time, officials reversed the call after a brief discussion on the field. The Phil Dawson Rule enacted the following season allowed for field goals and extra points that hit the crossbar or uprights to be reviewed.

9. Ricky Williams Rule

The Ricky Williams Rule, which was enacted in 2003, declared that a player’s hair was an extension of his uniform and therefore fair game for tacklers. The rule was informally named after Williams, the Miami Dolphins’ dreadlocked running back. It’s probably not a coincidence that most NFL players with long hair play defense, but defenders aren’t entirely safe from the dangers of hair-pulling. In 2006, Kansas City Chiefs running back Larry Johnson dragged Pittsburgh Steelers safety Troy Polamalu down by his hair after an interception. “The dude had hair,” Johnson said of his tackle. “What do you want me to do?” Polamalu has since insured his hair for $1 million.

10. Roy Williams Rule

The rule banning horse-collar tackles, in which a defender whips a player to the ground by grabbing the back of his shoulder pads, is informally named after Dallas Cowboys safety Roy Williams and was enacted before the 2005 season. Williams broke Terrell Owens’s ankle and also ended the seasons of Musa Smith and Tyrone Calico with horse-collar tackles in 2004. “I play by whatever rules the NFL lays down,” Williiams said after the rule was enacted. “If there’s a type of tackle that’s legal, I’ll use it. If it’s not legal, I won’t. It’s as simple as that.” Williams was suspended for one game in 2007 after being flagged for his third horse-collar tackle of the season.

11. Tom Dempsey

New Orleans Saints kicker Tom Dempsey was born without toes on his right foot and wore a modified shoe with a flattened and enlarged toe surface. Dempsey booted an NFL record 63-yard field goal to beat the Detroit Lions in 1970. In 1977, the NFL enacted a rule that requires “any shoe that is worn by a player with an artificial limb on his kicking leg must have a kicking surface that conforms to that of a normal kicking shoe." In 1956, the Lou Groza Rule banned the use of artificial aids for kickers. Groza, a Hall of Famer for the Cleveland Browns, used a strip of tape to line up his kicks and a special tee to help guide the ball off his foot.

Keep Your Cat Busy With a Board Game That Doubles as a Scratch Pad

Cheerble
Cheerble

No matter how much you love playing with your cat, waving a feather toy in front of its face can get monotonous after a while (for the both of you). To shake up playtime, the Cheerble three-in-one board game looks to provide your feline housemate with hours of hands-free entertainment.

Cheerble's board game, which is currently raising money on Kickstarter, is designed to keep even the most restless cats stimulated. The first component of the game is the electronic Cheerble ball, which rolls on its own when your cat touches it with their paw or nose—no remote control required. And on days when your cat is especially energetic, you can adjust the ball's settings to roll and bounce in a way that matches their stamina.

Cheerable cat toy on Kickstarter.
Cheerble

The Cheerble balls are meant to pair with the Cheerble game board, which consists of a box that has plenty of room for balls to roll around. The board is also covered on one side with a platform that has holes big enough for your cat to fit their paws through, so they can hunt the balls like a game of Whack-a-Mole. And if your cat ever loses interest in chasing the ball, the board also includes a built-in scratch pad and fluffy wand toy to slap around. A simplified version of the board game includes the scratch pad without the wand or hole maze, so you can tailor your purchase for your cat's interests.

Cheerble cat board game.
Cheerble

Since launching its campaign on Kickstarter on April 23, Cheerble has raised over $128,000, already blowing past its initial goal of $6416. You can back the Kickstarter today to claim a Cheerble product, with $32 getting you a ball and $58 getting you the board game. You can make your pledge here, with shipping estimated for July 2020.

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Bo Knows Everything: Remembering Nike's Legendary Bo Jackson Ad Campaign

Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Bo Jackson and the "Bo Knows" campaign helped Nike finally overtake Reebook in the early 1990s.
Mike Powell, Allsport/Getty Images

It may have been difficult for Nike to conceive of any athlete being able to do more for its company than Michael Jordan. In the late 1980s and 1990s, the Chicago Bulls star was omnipresent, helping turn their Air Jordan line of sneakers into a squeaky chorus in school hallways and gyms around the country. Even better, the company had scored big with “Just Do It,” an advertising slogan introduced in 1988 that became part of the public lexicon.

There was just one issue. In spite of Jordan’s growing popularity and their innovative advertising, Nike was still in second place behind Reebok. No other athlete on their roster could seemingly bridge the gap. Not even their new cross-training shoe endorsed by tennis pro John McEnroe was igniting excitement in the way the company had hoped.

In 1989, two major events changed all of that: An advertising copywriter was struck with inspiration, and two-sport athlete Bo Jackson slammed a first-inning home run during the Major League Baseball All-Star Game. The ad man’s idea was to portray Jackson as being able to do just about anything. Jackson went ahead and proved him right.

 

Bo Jackson was an ideal spokesperson for Nike's new line of cross-training sneakers. The Auburn University graduate was making waves as a rare two-sport pro athlete; he was playing baseball for the Kansas City Royals and football for the Los Angeles Raiders. Early commercials featured Jackson sampling other sporting activities like riding a bike. “Now, when’s that Tour de France?” he asked. In another, he dunked a basketball and pondered the potential of “Air Bo.”

At a Portland bar near Nike’s headquarters one evening, Nike vice president of marketing Tom Clarke and Jim Riswold of ad agency Wieden + Kennedy were pondering how best to use Jackson going forward. Clarke wanted to devote the majority of their budget for the cross-trainers to an ad campaign featuring the athlete. The two started lobbing ideas about other people named Bo—Bo Derek, Beau Brummell, Little Bo Peep, and Bo Diddley, among others.

The last one stuck with Riswold. He thought of a phrase—“Bo, you don’t know Diddley”—and went home to sleep on it. When he woke up the next morning, he was able to sketch out an entire commercial premise in minutes. Riswold envisioned a spot in which Jackson would try his hand at other sports, punctuating each with a “Bo Knows” proclamation. Jackson soon realizes the one thing he can’t do is play guitar with Bo Diddley, the legendary musician.

It took longer to shoot the commercial than to conceive of it. The spot was shot over the course of a month, with the crew going to California, Florida, and Kansas to film cameos with other athletes including Jordan, McEnroe, and Wayne Gretzky—all of whom Nike had under personal appearance contracts.

Fearing Jackson might hurt himself trying to skate, the production filmed him from the knees up sliding around in socks at a University of Kansas gymnasium rather than on ice. But not all attempts at caution were successful. When director Joe Pytka grew frustrated that Jackson kept running off-camera and implored him to move in a straight line, Jackson steamrolled both the equipment and Pytka, who had to tend to a bloody nose before continuing.

In portraying any other athlete this way, the campaign may have come off as stretching credulity. But Jackson had already been improving his game in all areas, hitting a 515-foot home run during a spring training win over the Boston Red Sox. In April, he hit .282 and tallied eight home runs. Even when he struck out, he still stood out: Jackson was prone to breaking his bat over his knee in frustration.

 

After Jackson was voted into the 1989 MLB All-Star Game in July, Nike decided the telecast would be the ideal place to debut their Bo Knows campaign. They handed out Bo Knows pennants for fans and even flew Bo Knows signs overhead. Bo Knows appeared in a full-page spot for USA Today. Even by Nike standards, this was big.

There was, of course, a chance Jackson would be in a bat-breaking mood, which might diminish the commercial’s impact. But in the very first inning, Jackson sent one into the stands off pitcher Rick Reuschel. With a little scrambling, Nike was able to get their ad moved up from the fourth inning, where it was originally scheduled to run. In the broadcast booth, announcer Vin Scully and special guest, former president Ronald Reagan, marveled at Jackson’s prowess. Scully reminded viewers that his pro football career was something Jackson once described as a “hobby.”

A Bo Jackson fan is pictured holding up a 'Bo Knows Baseball!' sign at the Major League Baseball All-Star Game at Anaheim Stadium in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989
A Bo Jackson fan shows his support at the MLB All-Star Game in Anaheim, California on July 11, 1989.
Focus on Sport/Getty Images

Jackson was named the Most Valuable Player of the game. That summer and into the fall, Bo Knows was quickly moving up the ranks of the most pervasive commercial spots in memory, second only to Jordan’s memorable ads for Nike and McDonald’s. Jackson turned up in sequels, trying his hand at everything from surfing to soccer to cricket. Special effects artists created multiple Bo Jacksons, a seemingly supernatural explanation for why he excelled at everything.

It was a myth, but one rooted in reality. After 92 wins with the Royals as a left-fielder in 1989, Jackson reported for the NFL season that fall as a running back for the Raiders. In one three-game stretch, he ran for over 100 yards each. Against the Cincinnati Bengals in November, Jackson ran 92 yards for a touchdown. He finished the season with 950 rushing yards. That winter, he was named to the Pro Bowl, making him the only athlete to appear in two all-star games for two major North American sports in consecutive seasons.

Nike was staggered by the results of Bo Knows, which helped them leap over Reebok to become the top athletic shoe company. They eventually secured 80 percent of the cross-training shoe market, going from $40 million in sales to $400 million, a feat that executives attributed in large part to Jackson. Bo Knows, bolstered by Jackson’s demonstrated versatility, was the perfect marriage of concept and talent. His stature as a spokesperson rose, and he appeared in spots for AT&T and Mountain Dew Sport, earning a reported $2 million a year for endorsements. A viewer survey named him the most persuasive athlete in advertising. If that weren’t enough, Jackson also appeared in the popular Nintendo Entertainment System game Tecmo Bowl and on the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1989.

 

In 1991, Jackson suffered a serious hip injury during a Raiders game, one that permanently derailed his football career. He played three more seasons of baseball with the Chicago White Sox and California Angels before retiring from sports in 1994.

Jackson's relationship with Nike was dissolved soon after, though the company never totally abandoned the concept of athletes wading into new territory. In 2004, a campaign depicted big names sampling other activities. Tennis great Andre Agassi suited up for the Boston Red Sox; cyclist Lance Armstrong was seen boxing; Serena Williams played beach volleyball. The Bo Knows DNA ran throughout.

Jackson still makes periodic references to the campaign, including in advertisements for his Bo Jackson Signature Foods. (“Bo Knows Meat,” the website proclaims.) In 2019, Jackson also appeared in a Sprint commercial that aimed for surrealism, with Jackson holding a mermaid playing a keytar and having a robot intone that “Bo does know” something about cell phone carriers.

The other key Bo—Diddley—never quite understood why the campaign worked. After seeing the commercial, he reportedly said that he was confused because it had nothing to do with shoes.