In this feature, Football 101, NFL officials help explain and clarify some of the rules that impact the game. This week, umpire Tony Steratore helps explain the concept of a forward pass:
Summary From The Official NFL Rule Book - Rule 8, Section 1, Article 1
It is a forward pass if:
a) the ball initially moves forward (to a point nearer the opponent's goal line) after leaving the passer's hand(s);
b) the ball first strikes the ground, a player, an official, or anything else at a point that is nearer the opponent's goal line than the point at which the ball leaves the passer's hand(s).
Note: A ball that is intentionally fumbled and goes forward is a forward pass. A ball that is intentionally muffed, and goes forward or backward, is a batted ball. When a player is in control of the ball and is attempting to pass it forward, any intentional forward movement of his hand starts a forward pass.
Article 2 - Legal Forward Pass
The offensive team may make one forward pass from behind the line during each down. If the ball, whether in player possession or loose, crosses the line of scrimmage, a forward pass is not permissible, regardless of whether the ball returns behind the line of scrimmage before the pass is thrown.
The Official Point Of View
"There's no such thing as a forward lateral. A lateral by definition is sideways or backwards. Anything that isn't sideways or backwards is really a forward pass."