Tag:NFL Rule Changes
Posted on: May 24, 2011 11:14 am
Edited on: May 25, 2011 6:30 am

League approves three rule changes at meetings

Posted by Will Brinson

All the NFL news today isn't necessarily bad. The league addressed, as expected at the owners meetings in Indianapolis, several rule changes. Three rules aimed at protecting defenseless players were approved 32-0.
NFL Labor

The biggest change appears to be the definition of a defenseless player. Now included in that definition, per Albert Breer of the NFL Network, are players who are "not clearly a runner yet" (wide receivers), kickers and punters during a return and quarterbacks following a change of possession.

There was a change made to the "launching" rule too. A player will be considered to have launched himself if he leaves his feet prior to contact in order to spring forward into another player and using "any part" of the helmet.

Finally, there's a change with respect to the "blow to the head" rule on quarterbacks. It's now a judgment call when a defender grazes the quarterback's head, as opposed to an automatic penalty with any touching.

Rich McKay, head of the NFL Competition Committee, is expected to speak at more length about the new rules later in the day. And yes, it is refreshing to deal with real football news even if the lockout is still looming large enough to make any rule changes irrelevant.

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Posted on: March 17, 2011 9:59 am

The real impact of new kickoff rules

Posted by Andy Benoit

At first blush, the NFL Competition Committee’s proposal to move kickoffs to the 35-yard-line and have touD. Hester (US Presswire)chbacks put the ball on the 25-yard line seems like an effort to decrease the number of kick returns altogether. After all, touchbacks would be both easier to obtain and more rewarding.

But “more touchbacks” is not what the Competition Committee is going for here – at least not first and foremost. The touchback narrowly beats out the fair catch as the most boring play in football. From an entertainment standpoint, it’s hard to actively increase them considering that television now sandwiches kickoffs between two sets of commercial breaks. A commercial-touchback-commercial sequence equals roughly six minutes without any action. If fans were willing to tolerate long periods of inaction, soccer would be on network television more often than once every four years.

What the Competition Committee is really aiming for here are safer kick returns. If they wanted more touchbacks, they’d simply move the kickoff up to the 35-yard-line and leave touchbacks at the 20. But having touchbacks go to the 25 is an incentive for kickers to NOT boot the ball through the end zone.

Instead, what kickers would try to do is boot the ball high and force return men to catch it somewhere near the 10-yard line. Why here? Because with a hanging ball, the kickoff coverage unit, which now lines up at the 35, will have time to get downfield and be bearing down on the returner (somewhat) when he catches it. Kicking the ball to the goal-line would still give the returner enough space to scan the field and pick up speed. But kicking it to the 10? That puts some pressure on.

In short, kick returns would become more like punt returns. A shorter field means less speed and momentum from the players involved. Impact collisions at high speed are what’s most dangerous in football.

Possible rule changes

Obviously, the incentive for a return guy to kneel the ball in the end zone is greater, too. So this proposed rule change is the best of both worlds, really. If kickoff units want to force a return, they now have a reason to kick the ball short. If they’re willing to settle for a touchback, the return team will likely oblige.

One final note: this rule change could also lead to more onside kicks. The greatest deterrent to onside kicking is the risk of giving your opponent the ball on the cusp of field goal range. But if the ball must now reach the 45-yard line instead of the 40, failed onside kicks would no longer leave your opponent in automatic three-point territory. An offense that begins a drive at the 45 has to at least pick up a first down in order to attempt a field goal under 49 yards; that’s not the case when drives begin at the 40.

Expect this kickoff rule change to pass. It promotes safety while forcing teams to update their strategy.

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Category: NFL
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