NFL vice president of communications Michael Signora said in an email Monday that referee Carl Cheffers was correct in not flagging San Francisco for 12 men in the huddle late in the second quarter Sunday.
Rule 5, Section 2, Article 1 of the NFL Rule Book states “there can never be more than 11 players in the offensive huddle while the play clock is running.” But if there is an extra player in the huddle and he “immediately leaves” the huddle, the referee can permit him to leave without a penalty.
A video replay of the FOX broadcast shows Cheffers motions for the play clock to begin, and a moment later 49ers tight end Vance McDonald leaves the huddle and runs past Cheffers on his way to the San Francisco sideline.
A 5-yard penalty would have backed the 49ers to the Carolina 6. Instead, they remained at the 1 and would score on a Colin Kaepernick pass to Vernon Davis with five seconds left in the half.
Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, will discuss this play in detail Tuesday night on NFL Network.
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