NFL Rule 5, Section 3 -- Changes in Position

Ravens coach John Harbaugh argued that the Patriots offensive substitutions qualified as "deception," while the NFL has said the changes were legal.

Here's a breakdown of the rule in question, via NFL.com:

NFL Rule 5, Section 3 — Changes in Position

REPORTING CHANGE OF POSITION

Article 1 An offensive player wearing the number of an ineligible pass receiver (50–79 and 90–99) is permitted to line up in the position of an eligible pass receiver (1–49 and 80–89), and an offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver is permitted to line up in the position of an ineligible pass receiver, provided that he immediately reports the change in his eligibility status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team.

He must participate in such eligible or ineligible position as long as he is continuously in the game, but prior to each play he must again report his status to the Referee, who will inform the defensive team. The game clock shall not be stopped, and the ball shall not be put in play until the Referee takes his normal position. 

RETURNING TO ORIGINAL POSITION

Article 2 A player who has reported a change in his eligibility status to the Referee is permitted to return to a position indicated by the eligibility status of his number after:

 (a) a team time out;

 (b) the end of a quarter;

 (c) the two-minute warning;

 (d) a foul;

 (e) a replay challenge;

 (f) a touchdown;

 (g) a completed kick from scrimmage;

 (h) a change of possession; or

 (i) if the player has been withdrawn for one legal snap. A player withdrawn for one legal snap may re-enter at a position indicated by the eligibility status of his number, unless he again reports to the Referee that he is assuming a position other than that designated by the eligibility status of his number.

Penalty: If a player fails to notify the Referee of a change in his status when required: Loss of five yards for illegal substitution.

A.R. 5.1 Offensive tackle A1 is legally shifted to the backfield and is then withdrawn. He returns before the next snap to a tackle position.

Ruling: Illegal. He must stay out one play, unless there is a team time out. See 5-3-2

Article 3 Each offensive and defensive team is permitted no more than one player on the field with a speaker in his helmet. Each team is permitted to have a maximum of three active radio receivers to be used on offense by its quarterbacks, and a maximum of two active radio receivers to be used on defense by players who have been designated as a primary and backup user.

Clubs that have a player whose principal position is as a non-quarterback (e.g., wide receiver, running back) and who also is used as a quarterback from time to time must have two helmets for that player—one with and one without radio components.

When a quarterback enters the game for the first time, or re-enters the game if he has previously been in the game and removed, he must report to the Referee.

Whenever the backup defensive user enters or re-enters the game wearing a helmet with a speaker, he must report to the Umpire. If the primary defensive user subsequently re-enters the game wearing a helmet with a speaker, he must report OFFICIAL NFL PLAYING RULES 24 RULE 5, SECTION 2, ARTICLE 11 to the Umpire. If the primary and backup players have been removed from the game, no other player may wear the radio speaker in his helmet. Teams must use other methods to communicate signals to their players. 

It is not necessary that the offensive player with the speaker in his helmet receive the snap. For special teams’ plays, only one player per team with a receiver will be permitted on the field.

The coach-to-player system is not subject to the equity rule. In the event one club experiences a coach-to-player radio system malfunction or failure, the other club does not have to shut down its system and may continue using it. However, if the coaches’ intercom system has been completely shut down on both sidelines pursuant to the equity rule, all coaches’ headsets must be removed, and radio communications from the sidelines to the field must be conducted by walkie-talkie only. 

All players that have radio components in their helmet must have a decal, supplied by the League, displayed on the midline of the rear of the helmet. Players who have speakers in their helmets must be identified in the Communication System section of the Game Day Administration Report that is submitted to the Referee or a member of his crew no later than one hour and 30 minutes prior to kickoff. 

For additional requirements and policies pertaining to the system, including regulations for the storage of a backup helmet for a non-quarterback who is used as a quarterback, or for the backup defensive player’s helmet, please refer to the Policy Manual for Member Clubs/Game Operations.

Penalty: If a player fails to notify the Referee of a change in his status when required: Loss of five yards for illegal substitution. 

See more of the rule book via NFL.com

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