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Silver Minings: How the evolution of the kicking tee will impact the rest of Raiders’ season

A rule “reinterpretation” will change kickoffs

NFL: Denver Broncos at Las Vegas Raiders
Daniel Carlson
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

In case you haven’t noticed, the Las Vegas Raiders and kicker Daniel Carlson have been using a holder (no, they never asked despite my namesake) routinely on kickoffs over the last few weeks. A tactic typically reserved for treacherous winds to keep the ball on the tee, which isn’t an issue with the enclosed Allegiant Stadium. However, the team discovered it can improve hangtime, and head coach Josh McDaniels cleared it with the NFL.

Or so he thought...

Walt Anderson, senior vice president of officiating, originally approved McDaniels’ request a few weeks ago. And the coach later revealed that the Raiders were trying to take advantage of the extra hangtime by kicking the ball short of the endzone and making the tackle short of the 25-yard line, where a touchback would bring the ball out to.

However, it’s become pretty obvious over recent years that the NFL wants to eliminate kickoffs without actually eliminating kickoffs, so one can imagine the league wasn’t so keen on Las Vegas’ new strategy. They rank 19th in touchback percentage for the entire year (59.2%) are 25th in the last three weeks (38.9%), per

According to, the NFL reviewed the interpretation of the history of the kicking tee, outlined below, and used it as justification to prohibit the Raiders from using a kickoff holder moving forward.

“When the league created its first rulebook and no longer relied on the college rules in 1932, one of the rules permitted a kicker to elevate the ball by building a “natural tee made from the soil in the immediate vicinity of the point of kickoff.” 1939 the league limited the height to 3 inches. Artificial tees were allowed in 1948, and...the natural tee was abolished in 1983. Finally, the height of the tee was standardized to a 1-inch elevation in 1994.

“Even though the kicker may place a ball in any manner on top of or resting against a tee, by placing it in an upright position on the lip circumvents the 1-inch requirement. When the NFL approved this tee style, the upright position of the ball was intended to be placed in the cavity, and so the height of the surrounding structure was largely irrelevant. Since the holder is facilitating a placement that is not possible due to gravity, the officiating department reversed course.”

So, it sounds like the Raiders found a loophole in the rule, and the NFL quickly put the kibosh on it. But, it’s awfully convenient for this to happen to an organization that’s been involved in several rule “changes” or “reinterpretations” throughout the league’s history. The Immaculate Reception, The Holy Roller, The Tuck Rule — sorry — and the list continues to grow.

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