There's a lot of confusion going around today speculating that the Seattle Seahawks lined up in an illegal formation for their onside kick on Sunday against the Green Bay Packers. Of course, Seattle recovered the onside kick after Brandon Bostick's mistake, and that play will live in infamy alongside 4th-and-26 and Brett Favre's interception against the Giants in the 2007 NFC Championship Game.
Here's a screenshot of the formation, which set up the argument for the illegal formation:
In this screenshot, you can clearly see six players to the right of kicker Steven Hauschka and four players to his left.
Much of the confusion has been as a result of this story from 2009, which states that the NFL instituted a rule stating the following:
the kicking team can't have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick. That will cost a team 5 yards.
However, there is nothing relating to this "five-player bunch" mentioned above in the current NFL rulebook. and NFL head of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed that there is no such rule.
What does exist in the rulebook is the following, which addresses all free kicks (which are defined as both kickoffs and safety kicks) and clearly states that the Seahawks were lined up properly:
If that doesn't seal it, here's a tweet moments ago from the NFL's head of officiating:
Question regarding #Seahawks onside kick. Rule states you must have at least 4 players on either side of the ball. Formation was legal.— Dean Blandino (@DeanBlandino) January 22, 2015
In other words, don't say that the Seahawks got away with something on that play. It was legal, so save your breath. And besides, there were about a hundred other factors that contributed far more to the Packers losing the game than Seattle's alignment on the onside kick.