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Safety’s in the Forefront of Rules Proposals

Posted by Randy Lange on March 17, 2011 – 11:21 am

The password is player safety.

Actually, that’s two words, but that’s the catchphrase of the 2011 season’s rule changes that the NFL’s Competition Committee will put up for vote at next week’s owners meetings in New Orleans.

We won’t go into detail on the proposals brought out by Rich McKay, the Competition Committee chairman, and Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, but two of the three are clearly intended to reduce injuries.

The first proposal is a rewriting of the “defenseless player” rule to the point that it will now be broken out in the NFL rulebook under its own article under Unnecessary Roughness. Part of the rewriting is the standardization of the protection for all eight categories of defenseless players. McKay added that within the rule will be a new category that will prohibit illegal launching — leaving one’s feet, springing forward and upward, and delivering a blow with any part of the helmet or facemask.

And No. 2 is the proposed modification of the kickoff, including moving the kick from the 30 back up to the 35 (what’s old is new again), and requiring all members of the kick-coverage team (other than the kicker) to line up within 5 yards of the kickoff line rather than the sometimes 15-yard head start that some players had been getting.

The impetus for this rule, said McKay, is that “the injury rate on the kickoff remains a real concern for us and for the players and the Coaches Subcommittee,” involving “both concussions and major injuries.”

To counterbalance the prospect of watching the Ravens’ Billy Cundiff, the Raiders’ Sebastian Janikowski and others bombing touchback after touchback into the end zone stands, the new proposal includes placing the ball after TB at the 25, not the 20. The average drive start after all kickoffs last year was the 26.8-yard line.

And while McKay said while the touchback rate “will go up,” returns won’t disappear because on the average kickoff return last year the ball was first caught at the 5.5-yard line. “Do I think there will be the potential for fewer returns? Yes,” he said. “Do we think it is a huge magnitude change? No.”

Obviously many are not fans of the “kinder, gentler” NFL. (Indeed, McKay said there were a few suggestion from the Competition Committee’s meetings with players and coaches to do away with the kickoff altogether.) Many others, a group that includes fans, players and owners, realize that major injuries are becoming an increasing concern in the game. And many feel strongly both ways. Send me your comments on which side of the fence you sit on regarding these rule changes.

Meanwhile, here are a few of the lesser-reported elements from the conference call that Anderson, McKay and Greg Aiello, the NFL’s senior vice president of public relations, had with reporters yesterday:

Upon Further Review

The third rule proposal will be modifying instant replay in two ways. One is for all scoring plays to be confirmed by the replay official, as they currently are in the last two minutes of both halves and overtime, so therefore coaches would not have to burn replay challenges on any scoring play. In conjunction with that rule is the proposed elimination of the third challenge in a game that each coach gets after two successful challenges.

Reseeding Still on Back Burner

The concept of reseeding playoff teams if a division champion is set to host a wild-card team with a better record was a hot topic a few years ago, not so much this year, McKay said.

“It was something we talked about, it was something we put in the survey,” he said. “It is something that we feel like membership did not have an appetite for right now. It is a topic that I am sure we will continue to discuss downstream, but not something there will be any proposal about this year.”

Interesting that there were three wild-card games in January hat would have been affected by reseeding, more than in any other year in NFL playoff history. The Jets were one of those teams — they took their 11-5 record to Lucas Oil to play the 10-6 Colts. The 17-16 victory worked out OK for the Green & White, but just maybe if that game had been at New Meadowlands, that would have lessened just enough postseason pressure to help the Jets when they needed it most, in the first half at Pittsburgh two weeks later …

That’s idle speculation, of course. A major key, as Rex Ryan has always said, is winning as many games as you can, grabbing that division title, and getting a home playoff game or two.

Those Revised OT Rules

The new overtime rules that were ready to be implemented for last year’s playoffs didn’t have to be used. But since 1998 the NFL has averaged more than one OT game per postseason so it’s a good bet the rules will be invoked in the ’11 playoffs.

But McKay said he anticipates no discussion of extending those rules into the regular season, so it will still be sudden death for the first 17 weeks of the schedule.

“Our feeling here is that we wanted to do kind of what we have done, which is put it into the postseason where the consequences are a little more severe and then see it operate a little bit, which we did not this year,” he said.”I don’t think there is any rush. There are some members of the committee that wanted to talk about proposing it this year, but I think our overall feeling was let’s wait a year or two before we propose the change, and let’s see where that leads us.  Let’s see some games played under that new rule.”

2011 Schedule

Nothing’s etched in stone regarding the release of the upcoming season’s preseason and regular-season schedules, but Aiello said of the RS sked, “the plan is to release it as we normally do in mid-April” and that his assumption on the PS schedule is that that also would be released as usual. Last year the league announced its preseason schedule on March 31 and the regular-season schedule was unveiled on NFL Network on April 20.

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Posted in Randy Lange | 13 Comments »

13 Responses to “Safety’s in the Forefront of Rules Proposals”

  1. By scjoe on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    I think they should leave the KO and the TB formula alone, if it aint broke, don’t go and try to fix it. As for player safety? It will not be as easy to fix. Penalties will create income for the league (as if they need it) but it just will not solve the problem. This is a contact sport like no other, the game itself has not changed a lot over the past 40 years, but the size, speed and strength of the players have dramatically. In the 60s and 70s the average size of a DT was about 250lbs, today it is over 300, just one example at one position, that is where the problem is. It will be difficult, if not impossible, to keep the game where it is and at the same time prevent most injuries. Only way I can see it is to go to flags. No pun intended.

  2. By scjoe on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    Everyone who follows pro football is concerned about the injuries, we as Jet fans have had our share of them over the years, maybe it is time to move the emphasis on the equipment rather then rule changes. With the technology we have today it should not be that difficult to come up with some type of head gear for the players to at least cut down the amount of concussions we have been seeing. As for the penalties? I think they should be limited to the most flagrant, those that clearly show intent, I don’t think that has been the case up until now. It has been overkill, THAT is just not going to solve the problem, not with the athlete of today.

  3. By scjoe on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    One last point, about the Jet-Colt playoff game in Indy in the above story. I am not that sure that a home game there would necessarily have been an advantage for the Jets, not the way they have been playing at home. I think it is pretty obvious that they seem to be more competitive on the road then they are at home. Just take a good look at their playoff record the past 2 years. But this shouldn’t be about how well they play on the road, it should be about creating a dominating home field advantage. I for one just can not figure it out. I feel very strongly that if they had that the past 2 years we would have at least 1 SB to show for it.

  4. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Mar 17, 2011 | Reply

    More foolishness from Commissioner Can’t Sit Still, Frank, in case you didn’t read my post on the other story just now. scjoe’s point about reworking equipment would be obvious to anyone who wasn’t constantly looking for a way to meddle with the game in the most narcissistic, egomaniacal way, but that’s who we have running the league today. What a disgrace!

  5. By Frank on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    64 I read your other comments and SCJoe came up with most of my response. If you have been watching football for more than a few years you would see the size, speed and strenghth of the game has changed dramatically. Additionally, the players themselves have decided to go with “lighter” equipment and not use equipment ie, girdles, thigh and knee pads and lighter helmets. There is equipment out there that is better suited as some of the players have taken advantage of. THE PLAYERS choose to put themselves at risk by the equipment they use. Additionally Goodell was given the power to police the players in the last CBA so get a grip. I don’t want the NFL to turn into the MLB or god forbid NBA. I gave up on both a long time ago.

  6. By IRA on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    Glad Leon got his contract. Becaus like NFL.Com wrote if the new KO rule gets passed next week no team is going to pay KO return players big money. So i am happy for Leon. What goes around comes around and he got his money with a new deal which was well deserved after that injury he had. Other players might not be too happy. I hope they don’t vote this in because if it goes out to the 35 yd line it will increase the TB’s and take away the excitement of the KO. Or lets say if that rule was in effect last year chances are the Jets lose in Indy because Cro would’ve never had a chance for a return to set up that game winning FG. AV would’ve kicked it out of the endzone. Jets start at the 25 yd line instead.

  7. By Mike Jet Vet on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    Off topic needs to be said sorry if it bores you ..it boggles the mind whats going on in our world as we speak.. Radiation spreading god knows where from Japan, more Mideastern country’s then not are at the brink of eruption, gas going up just about everyday milk eggs coffee everything we put our hands on is skyrocketing..I just Can’t imagine how all party’s concerns can look in a mirror as they more forward with this asinine disgraceful unconscionable display which amounts to greed and selfishness..What most concerns me is if this go’s for any length of time with our economy in a shambles hurt its going to put on the amounts of people and their family’s who serve all to do with NFL on unemployment lines Sad very sad

  8. By Mike Jet Vet on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    CONT. way this needs to be handled like Reagan did in the 80’s with air traffic controllers get back to work or be fired they got fired… Now I know all the bleeding hearts are going to cry foul but it all worked out in the end, this situation is far less important to the country then these greedy players I say send them packing let their agents do the packing and go get honest employment see how hard real fans and people work to earn the key word being (earn) money to watch games see how fast this idiotic lockout strike whatever get ironed out at the speed of light

  9. By Jet Fan Tom Since '64 on Mar 18, 2011 | Reply

    Goodell should not have been given the right to police the players unilaterally, Frank, and a less egomaniacal man wouldn’t have taken it. As for players and equipment, they can’t be expected to deal with that to any great degree and Goodell is way behind the curve on that one. And I notice you didn’t comment on his constant, asinine tinkering with the rules, which last year reduced the league to a joke on several weekends. Start questioning authority now and then — particularly inept authority — you’ll be surprised at the results.

  10. By Tom Spicer on Mar 19, 2011 | Reply

    Mike the EX Jet, This is not a strike again & the players have not asked for another PENNY! The owners have LOCKED OUT the players because they want more money & for the players to play more games for the same money.

  11. By Mike Jet Vet on Mar 19, 2011 | Reply

    TOM SPICER players are getting far to much and now and now looking to be taken care of forever, weather it be money or perks fact is owners are making a stand for you me fans and their salvation players can care less its only about them far I as see it .. get your head out of the sand OWNERS CAN SURVIVE WITHOUT PLAYERS they own Businesses and are self sufficient players would need to get honest Jobs right out of college , if not for these owners you constantly mock and blame.From what you’ll have us believe .. Owners are locking out players and running the risk of losing hundreds of millions now why ? the 18 game schedule is dead player union’s desertification is for what now ? Explain

  12. By WoodyEnglish on Mar 19, 2011 | Reply

    Safety is a great idea. We can still HIT hard and play like men while not deliberately knocking off someone’s head.Players are too big and fast now to not recognize and address this situation. Proposed kickoff changes are a GREAT idea. Slow the “D” down with only a 5 yard speed up is cool for safety. 25 yard line for a TB is a great idea.The coolest thing about the NFL is SKILL. Like a Lynn Swan catch, or in the end zone with toes touching and 2 guys around you to win the Super Bowl in the corner, eh ? So how cool would it be for kickoff kickers to learn to kick the ball a mile in the air and drop it 2 yards deep in the end zone ? Ar ewe going to see punters kicking off ?
    Embrace change

  13. By Tom Spicer on Mar 21, 2011 | Reply

    MIKE THE EX JET, “Owners are locking out players and running the risk of losing hundreds of millions” BECAUSE THEY WANT MORE MONEY HELLO MCFLY!

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