NFL owners are meeting this week to discuss important business like when the Cowboys are going to release Tony Romo rather than trying to pry a late-round conditional pick out of the Houston Texans. They also approved a whole lot of rule changes, adopted with an eye to player safety, improving the game, and probably making money. Here's the rundown.
1. No leaping over the line to block field goals or extra points. This was done with player safety in mind; apparently there's a concern that eventually somebody will get hurt. Fair enough, we all want to cut down on injuries, even though nobody has actually been injured in this fashion. Naturally such plays are also the only cool-looking occurrences during extra points or field goals; the only time you'll ever rewind an extra point or field goal attempt to say, "Hey, look at that!" So now they're gone like the Dodo bird.
2. The rule that a player penalized twice for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls will be ejected is now permanent. Evidently this rule was initially just a temporary one; there must have been a lot of debate over whether Vontaze Burflict should really be ejected after he clubs a defenseless player in the head on consecutive series. Now it's permanent. I'm sure a lot of people argued strenuously against this one.
3. Ball being placed at 25-yard line after touchback renewed for one more year. The league is hesitant to make this permanent for whatever reason. Even though "permanent" rules can also be changed at the annual meetings anyway, if it becomes clear they're stupid. The NFL and fantasy leagues were affected not a whit by this rule last year, and it will likely continue.
4. Receiver running a route now has defenseless player protection. Interesting to those who were unaware that this wasn't already a rule. Pretty sure every time I saw a receiver get blasted last year while running a route that there was a flag thrown; not certain what this changes, exactly. But let me know if I've missed something.
5. Crackback blocks prohibited even if a backfield player is not more than 2 yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. Again, if you thought that any kind of crackback blocks at any time anywhere on the field of play were allowed, raise your hand. I guess some percentage of these plays used to be OK; now they aren't.
6. Centralized replay and hand-held devices rather than the sideline replay monitor. The notion of going "under the hood" is no more; officials will now have hand-held devices. This will be great for those of us who love to watch other people staring at their phones. But in all seriousness, centralized replay in New York sounds great, until there's a technical glitch and we all have to wait while somebody sets up a Skype connection.
7. Two different rules that penalized players and teams for trying to manipulate the game clock with penalties or (presumably) faking injuries or equipment malfunctions. I don't have much to say about this beyond, again, I thought this was already a rule.
An additional issue, which you've probably heard about, was a discussion over shortening the overtime periods from 15 minutes to just 10 minutes. This was tabled until May, at which time it will likely be passed. The thinking here, apparently, is that playing an extra 15-minute period is too long and will increase injuries.
I understand the point here in theory, but would be curious to see information on 1) How many overtime games there are per season, and 2) How many of these games are decided in the 10th to 15th minute. Last year there were 13 overtime games and 2 ties, so 11 games that ended in overtime, most of which I'm guessing ended within 10 minutes. I'm thinking maybe a total of 4-5 games out of 256 in a typical season will be affected by this change, tops. Hope the league didn't spend too much time on this one.
A proposal that was voted down was one where kickoffs that went through the uprights would result in 5 bonus yards for the kicking team (so ball would be placed at 20 rather than 25). That was probably voted down because it would be fun and might cause people to be interested in kickoffs at Mile High or by strong-legged kickers. Can't have that.