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2010 NFL Rule Changes: Fair Catch Interference

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This week we'll be detailing the rule changes for the 2010 NFL season. The rest of the series can be found here.

Last year, you may remember a play in a game between the Tennesse Titans and Houston Texans in which the Texans returner Jacoby Jones called for a fair catch and had the ball bounce off his chest. Before he had a chance to recover the muffed kick, Titans' rookie Jason McCourty caught the ball and advanced it. The Titans not only didn't get the ball, but were also flagged for a 15 yard penalty. Titan's coach Jeff Fisher was understandably upset.

"It just doesn't look right," Fisher said. "There's no way we can coach a player not to hit the return man or go after the ball once the ball bounces out of his hands. You can't wait for the ball to hit the ground and then jump on it. To me, I think we need to look at it. Again, it was the correct call considering our current rules.

"The hard thing about this play when you see it is we've got the ball first down at the 9-yard line, and now we don't have the ball and they assess the 15-yard penalty on top of it," Fisher said.

They did look at it again and decided to clarify the rule. If a player has signaled for a fair catch, he must be allowed a chance to recover a muffed kick before it hits the ground. If the ball hits the ground or the returner does not signal for a fair catch, all bets are off. However, under the new rule the kicking is not assessed a 15 yard penalty. The receiving team is simply awarded the ball at the spot of the fair catch. NFL referee Walt Coleman explains.