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Packers’ coaches are clearly instructing kick returners on “kickoff out of bounds” rule

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There’s only one logical conclusion: Ty Montgomery’s heads-up play on Sunday is the result of an alert coaching staff that prepares its players for situations to take advantage of a weird NFL rule.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Arizona Cardinals Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

It seems that everyone is making a huge deal out of Ty Montgomery’s biggest play this week. On Sunday against the Detroit Lions, Montgomery adroitly exploited one of the NFL’s stranger loopholes on a kickoff, stepping out of bounds and then touching the football. In doing so, the ball is ruled to be out of bounds, and on a kickoff this comes with a penalty that gives the receiving team the ball at their own 40-yard line.

Here’s a look at the play, on which you can clearly see Montgomery make an effort to get his feet out of bounds prior to falling on the football:

Now, before we go praising Montgomery’s Stanford education and personal knowledge of the NFL rulebook (which very well may be valid), we need to identify a few things. First, look at his teammates coming up to him and congratulating him for the play. Clearly, they understand exactly what he did and why he is doing it.

But a critical item to keep in mind is the fact that Randall Cobb did exactly the same thing four years ago. In a game against the Tennessee Titans at Lambeau Field, a nearly identical play took place that resulted in the same field position boost for the Packers. In the same fashion, Cobb made sure to put one foot on the sideline before picking up the football, drawing the same penalty.

This is an obvious indication that the Packers’ coaching staff trains their players on this specific loophole in case of unusual kickoffs along the sideline like these. In fact, the two plays happened with two different special teams coordinators on staff - Shawn Slocum was in charge four years ago, while Ron Zook holds that title now. That makes it likely that head coach Mike McCarthy has made it a point to ensure that every special teams player is aware of this rule and of the right times to take advantage of it.