NFL owners held their annual Spring meeting this week in Arizona. Those meetings have concluded, and much of what the owners discussed during the week was with regard to rules changes. Here is a summary of some of the changes…
– The rule change with the most discussion – and controversy – has been adopted in the name of player health and safety, and the passage of this rule represents a significant victory for the NFL in its effort to promote and enhance player safety. The new helmet rule states the following: “Contact with the Crown of the Helmet: It is a foul if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside of the tackle box. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler against an opponent shall not be a foul.” This rule has been met with intense public opposition by the public and both current and former players. In the end, though, this is a rule that will have a much more significant on player safety than it will on how players play the game and fans view the game. This rule does not disallow a ball-carriers ability to lower his pads – and, thus, his head. Rather, it prohibits ball-carriers (or any player) from using the crown of the helmet (not the face mask, hairline or any other part of the helmet) as a weapon. An infraction of this rule will be the result of an obvious action by the player, not the result of a common play.
– The rule regarding the illegal use of a challenge by coaches was amended. Under the new rule, every time a coach initiates a replay, his team will be charged a timeout (the challenging team still gets the timeout back if the challenge is successful). If the play is challenged illegally, the team will lose a timeout — even if the challenge is successful. If a team is out of timeouts, it will be penalized 15 yards for illegal challenging a play, but the play still will be reviewed. The impetus behind this change came from the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and Texans in which Detroit Head Coach Jim Schwartz challenged a play that was going to be automatically reviewed. By rule, that was an illegal challenge, and also by rule any play that was illegally challenged was then not reviewed by officials. The result of that incident was a TD for the Texans that clearly would not have been upheld by replay.
– A rule that has become known as the “Tuck Rule” was eliminated. The Tuck Rule dictated that a fumbled ball that was moving forward in the hand of a QB was to be called an incomplete pass. The most famous instance of this rule came in 2001 during a playoff game between the Patriots and Raiders when Charles Woodson hit and sacked Tom Brady, causing the ball to come loose. Oakland recovered, but the Tuck Rule gave possession back to New England. They went on to tie the game, then win it, and eventually go on to win the Super Bowl.
– NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell confirmed that the Pro Bowl will remain a part of the NFL calendar. The 2014 Pro Bowl will take place on the Sunday between the conference championships and the Super Bowl, and Aloha Stadium in Honolulu will be the host.
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