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NFL Rule Changes to be Discussed at Owners Meetings: The Sunday Five

Rich McKay, Chairman of the NFL Competition Committee
Rich McKay, Chairman of the NFL Competition Committee
Steve Mitchell-US PRESSWIRE

In this week's edition of "The Sunday Five," I take a look at the proposed rule changes and bylaws that will be voted on by NFL owners, including Browns owner Jimmy Haslam, at the NFL's Annual League Meeting in Phoenix, Arizona. For those interested in reading the complete transcript of the discussion on the rule change proposals, click here. I offer a digest of sorts below.

Bullet_mediumReplay Review Changes: There are two parts here. The first involves the crazy rule that said "if a coach throws a challenge flag on a play that is automatically reviewed, the play is no longer reviewable." That cost the Detroit Lions dearly last season. The amendment would strip the team of a timeout as the punishment. If they don't have a timeout, they would be assessed a 15-yard penalty. In either case, the play would still be reviewed. I imagine this will pass with flying colors.

The other tweak involving the replay review system would be that plays ruled as incomplete passes on the field -- but may have actually been "catch on offense, fumble by offense, recovery by defense" -- would be reviewable. That certainly would have helped the Browns last season against the Dallas Cowboys in overtime, when Sheldon Brown punched the ball out of Austin Miles' hands. To revisit that incident, check bullet point No. 14 in our game recap from last season.

Bullet_mediumHealth/Safety Changes on PAT's & Field Goals: For me to try to paraphrase this one would be counter-productive, as it is difficult to describe concisely. Therefore, I will just quote what Jeff Fisher said:

"We’re going to add restrictions to the PAT rush and Field Goal rush teams from an alignment standpoint. Specifically, we’re going to require that no more than six defensive players, team ‘B’ players, be permitted to align on either side of the snapper. They will no longer permit defense rush players, team ‘B’ players, to push their teammates through the gaps and overload.

This proposal also creates a situation where the snapper now becomes a defenseless player and he gets helmet-to-helmet protection. The last aspect of this rule eliminates the low, attack block by both rush teams, the PAT and the Field Goal rush team. We looked at a lot of tape. There were some injuries that took place. We feel like even with this potential change, you’ll still have opportunities to affect the kick and still potentially block those kicks."

Bullet_mediumElimination of the Tuck Rule: The proposal is to eliminate the tuck rule. In other words, if a quarterback is in the motion of tucking the ball back toward his body but ends up fumbling, it will actually be a fumble. This rule makes sense, because the interpretation of the rule in the past has been so funky and driven some fans up a wall. The defense deserves to be rewarded for forcing the ball loose, and this helps prevent officials from having to make absurd calls based on formalities in the rule book.

New Numbers for Tight Ends: Currently, tight ends are only allowed to wear jersey numbers ranging from 80-89. The proposed rule change would allow tight ends to use numbers ranging from 40-49 as well.

Bullet_mediumElimination of Low, Peel-Back Blocks: Again, when it comes to the safety rules, it's easier just to defer to Fisher's explanation:

"Currently, we allow offensive players to block back towards their end line low in the tackle box. It is a foul if they are outside the tackle box and they block low. We refer to it as the ‘peel back’ block. This proposal will make it a foul if they block low even if they are in the tackle box. Basically to simplify things, it is no longer permissible to block low in the peel backs any place on the field."

Crown of the Helmet Penalty: This is the one that is already causing some controversy:

"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.’"

There is further elaboration that says that officials would be told not to err on the extreme side of caution; in other words, they should only throw the flags in serious offenses. I don't care for this rule because when players are in space and about to absorb or make contact, they have been taught to lower their shoulder, which in many cases results in helmet contact.

Putting this up to the discretion of the officials will only cause problems -- the one time they call it, it will end up being a game-changing penalty that is discussed around the NFL for weeks. The only thing I would be in support of is this: if an offensive player is already wrapped up by two defenders, and then a third defender comes in and leads with his helmet, then I would have no issue with there being a penalty.

Bullet_mediumBylaw Changes: The four bullet points above summarize the six proposed rule changes. There were also three bylaw changes proposed. (1) If you claim a player off waivers, you are only required to keep them on your roster for a minimum of one day [previously, it was two days]. (2) In the past, players on the PUP could practice starting in Week 6, but would go on injured reserve if they did not start playing by Week 9. The proposed change would extend the PUP option two more weeks to Week 11. (3) The last bylaw change would simply move the 53-man roster cutdown date from a Saturday to a Friday.

Other Points: Officials will be told to make sure all players are wearing knee and thigh pads during games in 2013. This is a new mandatory rule that was voted on last year, but goes into effect this year. There will be random uniform inspections during pre-game and during the game. If a player doesn't have the equipment on, they will not be permitted on the field until they comply. Also, more resources will be used in ensuring safer field conditions.

What do you guys think of the proposed changes? They will be voted upon by the owners some time between Monday and Wednesday, and each rule will need the approval of at least 24 owners to pass.