At the annual NFL meetings that are being held in Palm Beach, Fla. this week, the NFL competition committee will propose a series of playing rule changes for the 2012 season to the NFL’s ownership group.
After the conclusion of the 2011 season, the competition committee, which is chaired by Atlanta Falcons President and CEO Rich McKay, took feedback from fans, all 32 NFL clubs, officials, media, medical consultants and the NFLPA and came up with the following rule proposals, as explained by McKay:
Playing Rule Proposal No. 1 is submitted by Buffalo. It is a change to instant replay in which Buffalo proposes that the replay official in the booth make all decisions in the booth as opposed to the referee. That is the only change in the rule they proposed. That would move the decisions from the referee to upstairs.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 2 is submitted by Pittsburgh. It is a proposal in which they want to modify the horse collar tackle rule. The rule now provides an exception to horse collar tackles to the quarterback inside the pocket. They proposed that the exception be taken out. In other words, if a quarterback inside the pocket is tackled by a horse collar tackle, it would be a 15-yard penalty. It currently is not.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 3 is also submitted by Pittsburgh. It is a proposal in which they ask that the postseason overtime rule be used in the regular season also. It would be a change in what we call the ‘Opportunity to Possess Rule’ that now occurs in our postseason. They would propose that it would also be used in the regular season.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 4 is a cleanup rule about the kicking of the football. If you kick a football and it happens by the offensive team before possession changes, then it is a loss of a scrimmage down. It is really because there are some instances in which the kicking team gains an advantage or isn’t penalized substantially on a muffed kick by kicking the ball. We wanted to marry it up with the college rule and make it also a loss of down – a simple cleanup rule.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 5 is an adoption, if you will or a proposal to adopt the college rule on too many men on the field. It would be a dead-ball foul now as it is in college. If you line up on offense for more than three seconds or if on defense you line up and the snap is imminent, then the official will shut the play down and it will be a dead-ball foul, five yards and you go from there. You would still have the same situation if a player is trying to run off the field or something like that. In that case, it would be a live-ball foul and a five-yard penalty. It deals a little bit with, and is a little bit of a reaction, obviously, to the Super Bowl (XLVI) play.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 6 is an expansion of our defenseless player rules. All we are doing there is we have always given crackback protection to the defensive player from the low block from the person who is lined up outside and blocks inside and goes low. You guys have heard it forever. We have said that if he has crackback protection, the (offensive player) cannot go low. We propose that the protection be expanded to defenseless player protection, which means you cannot go low but you also cannot hit him in the head nor lead with the head against that player. We just think that player is in a very vulnerable position inside, and we are trying to give that defensive player a little more protection.
Playing Rule Proposal No. 7 is our last Playing Rule Proposal. It is an instant replay proposal submitted by the Competition Committee. Last year, we proposed that you would be able to review scoring plays. This year we would expand that and try to propose that you would be able to review scoring plays and additionally review what we will call ‘traditional turnovers.’ When I say review, I mean that a review would be instigated by the replay official upstairs. As you know, last year we changed that. We took scoring plays from the coaches and put it upstairs as an automatic review for him (the replay official) to confirm. If he (the replay official) felt it needed to be reviewed by the referee, then he stopped the game. We would use that same procedure for turnovers – fumbles, interceptions and the like. That would be an expansion of the replay assistant’s capabilities and take it out of the hands of the coaches, without affecting in any way the coach’s ability to still have three challenges if he gets the first two right or two challenges if he doesn’t.
In addition to the seven rule proposals, the competition committee also recommended changes to the league’s bylaws which include adjusting the trade deadline, training camp roster sizes and an injured reserve list exception.
Bylaw Proposal No. 1 is a cleanup rule with respect to the teams that have games on Thanksgiving and Christmas in giving them the ability to use the waiver procedure like other night games.
Bylaw Proposal No. 2, we proposed that the trade deadline be moved from after the sixth week of the regular season to after the eighth week of the regular season. It would be a two-week move in the trade deadline.
Bylaw Proposal No. 3 is we propose a 90-player training camp offseason limit. In that limit, we would also count the unsigned draft picks, which we haven’t in years past; those players have been exempt. It would be an increase from what has traditionally been 80 players, although last year we obviously made the exception given the unique year. We propose 90 this year. In that, we propose two cuts – one cut coming after (preseason) Week 3, you would go from 90 to 80; and then you would go to 53 in the last cut.
Bylaw Proposal No. 4 is a contingent proposal in case we don’t end up with a 90-man roster and we end up with an 80-man roster. It is a way to cut down the roster if that were to happen. Bylaw Proposal No. 4 is a contingency proposal, if you will.
Bylaw Proposal No. 5 is a proposal in which we seek to move the final cut-down date to Friday night as opposed to Saturday where it has been. It is in recognition of the Kickoff Game being on Wednesday night and trying to give those two teams the opportunity to have a practice on Saturday.
Bylaw Proposal No. 6, I’m going to call it an ‘injured reserve exception for major injury to a designated player.’ Traditionally, in our system, injured reserve players have been out for the year. In this case, if that player was on the roster all the way through the first regular-season weekend, then you could put that player on injured reserve, designate that player for return and the player could begin to practice six weeks after he has gone on that list and play in games eight weeks after he has gone on that list. You could put him on later in the season, but you could take the player, for instance, who was hurt in the preseason, carry him through the first week of the regular season, put him on this list and bring him back during the season.
Bylaw Proposal No. 7 is an exception or an addition to the inactive list which would give each team the right by the Friday of each week to designate up to one player who could be on the inactive list, and if they were diagnosed with a concussion, they could go on that inactive list; you could then add another player to your roster, they would stay on that inactive list until they take them off. You must take them off or put them on prior to Friday at 4:00 PM. At no time could you have more than one on that inactive list.
Last year’s major rule change proposed by the committee and ultimately passed by the league was moving kickoffs up by 5 yards to help cut back on injuries. McKay said that concussions on kickoffs were reduced by 40 percent while only affecting the average drive start by roughly 1.5 yards.