The NFL Annual Meeting wrapped up Wednesday with some changes being made to rules, resolutions and bylaws that required approval by club teams.
Here's a recap of some of the four-day frenzy of action (including Sunday's first-ever NFL Veteran Combine and the discussions that began Monday.
Vikings Head Coach Mike Zimmer spoke with reporters Wednesday during the NFC coaches breakfast. **Click here** to see their summaries of Zimmer's comments in 140 characters or less via the Twitterverse, or scroll down for an attempt to simplify the legalese.
Rule proposals adopted:
- Allowing for the replay system to be used to check the game clock and put time back on the clock "during or after the last play of the first or second half, or of an overtime period in the preseason or regular season, or of an overtime half in the postseason." Time will only be restored in the first-half if the additional play will be a snap from scrimmage and in the second half if it will be a snap for a team that is trailing by eight or fewer points or for either team if the game is tied. Aim: to offer a method of review and correction if a timing error occurs.
- Prohibiting players on a punt, field-goal or extra point from "pushing teammates at the line of scrimmage into the offensive formation" when it is lined up in a standard formation. Defenders within one yard of the line of scrimmage must have their entire body outside the snapper's shoulder pads at the snap. Aim:to increase safety.
- Prohibiting "peel back" blocks by any offensive players, regardless of where they line up when the ball is snapped. Aim: to increase safety. Under the new language an offensive player cannot "initiate contact on the side and below the waist against an opponent if: a) the blocker is moving toward his own end line; and b) he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side." Aim: to increase safety.
- Include intended receivers of a pass in the "immediate continuing action following an interception" as being in a defenseless posture unless the receiver is capable of "avoiding or warding off the impending contact." Violations of this rule will be enforced after the interception. Aim: to increase safety.
- Include unsportsmanlike conduct or taunting fouls along with dead ball personal fouls at the end of a half as ones that will be enforced on the second-half or overtime kickoff. Aim: promote sportsmanship.
- Prohibit running backs from executing a "chop block" on a defensive player that is engaged above the waist with an offensive player outside the area originally occupied by the tight end. Aim: to increase safety.
- Allow linebackers to be assigned jerseys in the 40-49 range. Previously, linebackers were limited to 50-59 or 90-99, but some teams were approaching a shortage of available numbers for linebackers. The assignments:
1-19: quarterbacks, punters and kickers
20-49: running backs and defensive backs
60-79: guards and offensive tackles
10-19 and 80-89: wide receivers
40-49 and 80-89: tight ends and H-backs
50-79 and 90-99: defensive linemen
40-59 and 90-99: linebackers
- About those numbers and with regard to who is considered an eligible receiver or ineligible receiver (Patriots-Ravens Divisional ring a bell?), an "offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the tackle box."
Aim: competitive fairness (was proposed by the competition committee).
- For one year only, home teams with retractable roofs will be allowed start a game with the roof in the closed position and open it for the second half, if the determination is made 90 minutes before kickoff. If that decision is made, the roof "must be opened if the defined weather parameters are in place when five minutes remain in the second quarter" and "the opening of the roof at halftime must commence as soon as the first half ends."
- The NFL's Injury Video Review Policy was supplemented by giving an ATC spotter the authority to pause the game to make sure an injured player receives treatment. If the spotter has "clear visual evidence: 1) that a player displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable: and 2) it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and not be attended to by the club's medical or athletic training staff," the spotter will contact the side judge to identify the player by team and jersey number and contact the medical staff of the player involved.
- Move up the day on which a club can designate a player on injured reserve/designated to return to 4 p.m. the day after clubs make their final roster reductions to 53 players. This shortens the window that clubs had to wait. Aim: competitively more fair.
- Allow teams to return a player that opens camp on the reserve/physically unable to perform list to begin practicing a player six days before a club's seventh regular season game and continuing through the day after the club's 11th regular season game. Aim: competitively more fair for clubs playing on Thursday.
What didn't happen (yet)?
- Each year, several proposals that are presented in March are tabled for further discussion in May. Such is the case for any changes to extra-point kicks or two-point conversion attempts after touchdowns. After what Competition Committee member Rich McKay called an "interesting and lively" 30-to-40 minute discussion a decision was postponed. McKay did say during a news conference that he thinks there will be a support for change to make it a "football play." Among elements discussed were moving the spot of a kick further back to make it more difficult, moving up the spotting of the ball if a team opted to go for two and allowing defenses to score if they returned an interception or fumble (college currently allows that caveat).
- There has been rampant speculation about a team returning to Los Angeles, which has been without a pro team for 21 years (Raiders left for Oakland and Rams left for St. Louis after the 1994 season). Commissioner Roger Goodell said the NFL is "not focused" on having a team in Los Angeles in 2016. "First, let me just say we're focused on doing this right," Goodell said. "If we go back to the Los Angeles market, we want to succeed for the long term and we have a lot to do to get to that place. So we're not focused on '16."
What will happen in 2015-16?
- The NFL will use multiple opportunities to promote Super Bowl 50 with an "On the Fifty" campaign. After making the decision to use Arabic (50) instead of Roman numerals (L) like previous games, the league will celebrate predecessors of the golden anniversary game that is scheduled for February 2016 in San Francisco's home stadium. Folks may have noticed that the logo for next month's draft uses gold in its color scheme, as will the uniforms for the Pro Bowl. Plans are also in place to paint the 50-yard-line markers at each stadium in gold this season.