When owners convene next week for what seems like their 50th meeting of the year, the NFL’s competition committee has some recommendations for them (hopefully, Jerry Jones won’t tap his fists together and walk out of this meeting).
According to several reporters who were on a teleconference call with Rich McKay, chair of the committee, there are number of potential rules changes. Here they are:
1) The most-impactful proposal is the idea to move the kickoff spot from the 30-yard line to the 35-yard line, to make the touchback starting point the 25-yard line (instead of the 20) and to eliminate all wedge blocking, including the two-man wedge.
This proposal, says the committee, is because of player safety. Since kickoffs are so potentially dangerous, it’s pretty clear the committee wants to reduce the amount of kickoffs that can be fielded. Even if a place-kicker can’t get the ball out of the end zone from the 35-yard line, returners will be less likely to run back a kick from the middle of the end zone, now that a team would get possession at the 25-yard line on a touchback.
If this rule is adopted, that would, I imagine, lessen the impact of players like Devin Hester and Leon Washington.
The elimination of wedge plays isn’t a surprise, because of how dangerous those blocks are for the person who’s being double-teamed. In fact, McKay said, some teams proposed eliminating kickoffs altogether (how crazy would that be, by the way?).
2) Expect suspensions for those who make dangerous hits on defenseless receivers. This, obviously, also is because of safety, and since the players have had half a season to get used to this new paradigm, I expect the NFL to start actually suspending players. Especially for repeat offenders and for the worst of the worst hits.
3) Regarding instant replay, the committee wants to adopt a rule in which all scoring plays would be booth reviews. This would eliminate the coaches’ ability to challenge on a TD (or a field goal, I suppose). This obviously is a move to the college game, though McKay said he’s not willing to go all the way there (meaning all plays are reviewable by the booth).
And a few other news bits:
-Playoff overtime rules will not extend into the regular season. The main reason: there was no playoff overtime games last year, and the committee still wants to see how that situation would play out before making it all-encompassing.
-The possibility was discussed by the committee, but there will be no proposal for playoff reseeding this season. Good news for, ahem, the Seahawks.
-The NFL schedule will be released in mid-April this year. Just like normal.
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