It was a mere few weeks ago that the National Football League held their annual owners’ meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. There were about 24 proposed changes that went up for vote and half of them passed, including eight new rules, promising some changes to the way NFL teams play football this year. Most rules proposed by the owners are assumed to be submitted in the name of player safety, but all it seems to accomplish is to confuse the fans more.
The biggest and most newsworthy item that passed wasn’t a rule at all, but the approval of the Raiders relocation to Las Vegas. The plan for Vegas is to break ground on the proposed $1.9 billion 65,000 seat domed football stadium before December. Oakland fans were disappointed, but Las Vegans will finally get the football team they have been waiting for.
One of the new rules enforces stronger penalties for violent or over the top hits on “defenseless” players. For example, a helmet to helmet hit will result in a 15-yard walk-off and an automatic first down for the receiving team as well as a player’s possible ejection. A play by the 49ers against the Saints last year prompted another unsportsmanlike conduct rule to be established stating that teams that commit multiple fouls in order to manipulate the game clock will now be penalized 15 yards and the game clock will be restored.
Another new rule passed was proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles. It prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. This directly addresses the assumed unsportsmanlike conduct of players leaping over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal or extra point attempt. It forces coaches to come up with new ways to stop the kick without putting players in harm’s way. It will most certainly change the way a team plays to defend against a kick.
One of the things sports fans may not think about is that when you alter the rules, you change the game. You change the way players play and the possible outcomes of any given game. For example, when regulations regarding kicking field goals and extra points are added or changed, a team that is normally favored for having a great kicking defense must change the way they play. The more challenging the rule change, the more the odds for or against a team can change as well as the predicted point spread.
Some of the other changes on plays include giving a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection, changing the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line and making blocks prohibited for a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped
For better or for worse, centralized replay review was also passed. Referees will no longer have to go “under the hood” to review play. The final say will come from the league’s New York command center, where senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino and his supervisory crew will conduct the review.
One of the more “fun” proposed changes was tabled until May, leaving the decision to allow players more creativity in their celebrations up in the air much to the disappointment of sports fans everywhere. The discussion to shorten overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minute periods was also tabled.