The Rules Continue to Evolve

The NFL continues the quest to remake itself.

The NFL owners at the Annual League Meeting in Arizona have been baking up a fresh new batch of rules for the 2017 season.

As you would expect, some look pretty good. Others seem unnecessary. And still others seem to neglect the fact that players still wear helmets.

Jumping over the line in an attempt to block a field goal or extra point attempt is now banned. Cincinnati Bengals offensive lineman and NFLPA representative Eric Winston supports the rule.

According to Winston, “The jumping over on the field goal…is just leading to a really dangerous play for everybody…I think the guys that are getting jumped over are going to end up getting hurt.”

Slowly but surely, every exciting play will be against the rules. Nobody here is a fan of the Seattle Seahawks, but watching Kam Chancellor time a jump and block a kick is exciting for anyone who likes football. Centers, just catch his ankle in mid-air one time and I bet he won’t try that anymore. Problem solved.

They are cracking down on the crackback block as well. This prohibition includes a back who goes in motion and is within a yard or two of the line of scrimmage.

This may actually be the first rule that I can remember in a long time that wasn’t partial to the offensive side of the ball.

Defenders, while flowing with the direction of a play, have always had to be mindful of what’s happening in the backfield in addition to their periphery. When they weren’t mindful of the periphery, they could be victims of the crackback.

We had a verb for a successful crack block when I was in high school: “Ear holing.” It is a weird thing to say in any other context but I think you get what I mean.

If the crackback is particularly egregious, it could be met with an automatic ejection and suspension. The NFL will be moving towards the NCAA “Targeting Rule” model and for particularly dangerous hits to the head, players can be automatically ejected from NFL games starting this season.

This clip was posted by Tom Pelissero on Twitter as a hit that could be met with possible ejection or suspension.

I think one of the real bright spots of this year’s meeting is the consideration for how to speed up the game. I know we don’t really want the beer drinking and wing eating to end sooner, but goodness these games are getting long. Especially the commercials.

Roger Goodell and others have floated the idea of a play clock rule between an extra point attempt and the following kickoff. This would eliminate the “doubling up” of commercials, when a set of ads rolls after the extra point and the proceeding kickoff.

In the end, this might trim 5 to 10 minutes depending on the game, which feels miniscule but I personally appreciate the effort.

I am also happy about centralized review of coach challenge plays. Let’s take this out of the hands of the referee on the field and make it a uniform process.

Not that we won’t still criticize the decision to no end if it hurts our own team, but it seems best in my view. The media and fans make such a racket with every controversial call, I think the referee on the field should have that pressure removed. Joe Buck and Mike Pereira are looking over their shoulders every replay anyway, so what’s the real difference?

Piece by piece the league is morphing.

I know the league has to evolve but I wonder at times if we will recognize this game in 20 years. The answer is probably ‘no’ because the game has always been evolving. We just have to decide if it’s still the game we fell in love with when the time comes.

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Comments (10)

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EdsLaces's picture

March 28, 2017 at 05:17 pm

The no jumping over the line to block a kick rule sucks....it's so hard to do and takes excellent timing. Such an exciting play wiped out how lame.

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NMPF's picture

March 29, 2017 at 09:17 am

I have a great idea. lets wait for the long snapper to raise up and become a paraplegic by getting his neck jammed by this "oh so exciting play". The only thing lame is thinking this an exciting play.

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Ferrari Driver's picture

March 28, 2017 at 05:25 pm

The NFL could stick a small red towel on the rear end of the running back and then just pull the towel out to end the play.

Then Murphy could raise ticket prices again to cover the cost of the towels.

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UmpireMark's picture

March 28, 2017 at 07:12 pm

Change the overtime rules to mirror the NCAA. Because these are pros and kickers have stronger legs, start each series from the 50.

Do something other than sudden death.

IMHO ...

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NickPerry's picture

March 29, 2017 at 05:33 am

No offense Mark but please NO. I think the change should be each team gets the ball in OT, no matter if the first team to have the ball scores a TD. I think at the end of the day it' the "Fairest" way to determine a tie game in a sport where one game can make all the difference in the world. The NFL has tilted the game in the favor of the Offense so much already to begin with I think it's only right IMO.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 29, 2017 at 07:03 am

I agree.

I like the idea of both teams getting the ball regardless of what happens when the first team touches the ball. I like that both teams now have to play offense and defense and it isn't determined by a coin flip.

An idea I had though is if the first team scores a TD and kicks the extra point, should the 2nd team be forced to go for 2 vs just kicking the extra point? I like the idea because it then means that the game is either won or lost and isn't going to keep going.
Regardless if both teams get the ball automatically it changes the way teams go about OT. Teams may opt to kick the ball more because they will at that point know if they have to score a TD or not. Which if the first team scores the 2nd team will have 4 downs to get first downs.
There would be a lot more strategy involved vs just who wins the coin toss gets the ball...

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jeremyjjbrown's picture

March 29, 2017 at 08:38 am

They want the shortest overtime so I doubt either NCAA style or getting the ball after a TD is going to happen.

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Since'61's picture

March 29, 2017 at 11:42 am

Jeremy - I agree that they want to keep the games short and ending the game if the team with the first OT possession scores a TD and ends a regular season game. However, during the playoffs I believe that each team should get at least one possession regardless of what happens. There is no reason to shorten the playoff games and it gives each team an equal chance. After that the game is sudden death anyway. That's my 2 cents on the matter. Thanks, Since '61

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Handsback's picture

March 28, 2017 at 08:37 pm

I'm in the process of writing a football story, fiction of course. Anyway in my background research I'm coming to a conclusion that the Run & Shoot offense will make its way back into the NFL. We all see how the pass is becoming the weapon of choice for all but 2 or 3 teams. The way the rules are slanting....it will make it even more popular to the point of total wide-open offenses. Just my opinion, but I did stay at a HI in Shanghai last night.

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UmpireMark's picture

March 29, 2017 at 07:35 am

Not worthy of an argument - and I certainly am not arguing - I believe we're saying the same thing here.

If each team gets the ball once on the 50, or if each team kicks off once, each ... at least provide the opportunities for both offences to be on the field a minimum of once, each.

You are correct, this is an offense strong league. Get both offenses on the field. Sudden death sucks. Seattle. Phoenix. Sucks.

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