The fumblerooski in football is a play in which the offense intentionally fumbles the ball by placing it on the ground. Unbeknownst to the defense another offensive player will pick up the live ball while moving in the opposite direction.
The rest of the players will continue to block as if the play is still heading in the original direction. The purpose of this play is to mislead the defense into moving to the wrong side of the field.
In most cases, the intentional fumble is done behind the offensive line. This obstructs the view of the ball from the defense. If the defense can’t see the ball they tend to follow the movement of the blockers.
The momentum of the second ball carrier moving in the opposite direction often allows them to catch the defense off guard and pick up big gains.
Unfortunately, the fumblerooski play is considered illegal in both the NCAA and the NFL.
The legality of The Fumblerooski Play
Following the 1992 NFL season, the NCAA banned the fumblerooski play altogether. The NFL does have any specific rules outlawing the fumblerooski but it was widely considered to be an illegal play after the NCAA deemed it illegal.
In the NFL you are not allowed to intentionally fumble the football forwards. This makes the traditional fumblerooski play in which you place the ball down in front of you illegal.
Though if a player were to place the ball down behind him this would be considered a lateral pass and is therefore not illegal.
Therefore in the NFL fumblerooskis are legal so long as the ball travels backwards when the player fumbles it. In some versions of the fumblerooski, the snap from the center is intentionally fumbled or bounced off the ground so that another player can grab it.
These versions of the play would be legal in the NFL as well as the snap from the center always travels backwards.
Who gets the ball on a fumblerooski?
On a fumblerooski play the ball carrier can be many different players it depends on how the offense plans to confuse their opponents.
One of the most common players to receive the ball on a fumblerooski is the offensive guard. On the play, the center will bounce the snap off the ground on simply place it just behind the line of scrimmage.
The guard will then quickly pick up the ball and travel in the opposite direction of the rest of the offense. Most defenses do not expect an offensive lineman to carry the ball which makes them slow to react to the guard’s movement.
Since the snap creates a live ball the offensive lineman is able to pick it up like any other player. For this reason, a fumblerooski to the guard from the center would be legal in the NFL.
Additionally, running backs can also be on the receiving end of a fumblerooski.
One verison of this play has the quarterback receive the snap in the shotgun. The quarterback then places the ball at the feet of the running back only for him to pick it up moments later.
This version of the play has been attempted in the NFL though the quarterback will hand the ball to the running back between his legs.
Most do not consider this a true fumblerooski as the ball is not fumbled at any point and instead is handed to the runningback between his legs.