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Lunchbreak: Tweaking Defensive Pass Interference Could Be Big Game-Changer

NFL rule changes are discussed during the Annual League Meeting in March and either voted on, rejected or tabled until a May session.

While the calendar hasn’t quite flipped to that time, a couple of changes were floated this week before the NFL convened on Indianapolis for the 2018 NFL Scouting Combine.

NFL Media’s Jeremy Bergman posted a roundup Tuesday about rule changes* *that could be considered by the NFL Competition Committee, which is made up of two owners, club presidents, general managers and head coaches.

Proposed changes will be presented to owners of all 32 teams, and a rule change requires approval from at least 24 owners (75 percent).

Bergman cited reporting by NFL Network’s Judy Battista that the NFL Competition Committee could change defensive pass interference from a spot-of-the-foul assessment to a 15-yard mark off, which is the price paid by college defenders who commit pass interference.

Pro Football Reference tallied 266 instances* *of accepted defensive pass interference in the 2017 regular season, which is a little more than once per 256 games. The average yardage was 18.09.

The Vikings experienced significant effects — good and bad — of pass interference calls last season.

Facing a second-and-22 at the Pittsburgh 39, Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger tried a deep heave to Martavis Bryant and was awarded a 49-yard penalty against Trae Waynes. The infraction occurred three plays before the Steelers built a 14-0 lead with their second score.

The Vikings benefitted with consecutive penalties of 20 and 34 yards against Ken Crawley on a pair of first-and-10s in the Divisional. Laquon Treadwell drew the first, and Stefon Diggs drew the second to move the ball to the New Orleans 6 and set up a field goal for a 10-0 lead.

Proponents for pass interference remaining a spot foul will say it is critical to keep the beauty of a deep completion in the game and that DBs will always trade 15 yards for a sure-to-be touchdown.

Opponents of it continuing to be a spot foul will say that it assumes a 100-percent catch rate and encourages chucking down the field in situations like a second-and-22 when an offense doesn’t have great options.

Bregman added:

*In addition, and perhaps as a counter-measure, the league is expected to increase "illegal contact" calls as an effort to limit the amount of hand-fighting. *

Battista reported the committee is also looking at potentially eliminating the "going to the ground" portion of the catch rule in attempt to clarify, changing the targeting rule and emphasizing more ejections for fighting.

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A special Winter Park memory

The Vikings are in the midst of a major move* *from their Winter Park headquarters in Eden Prairie to Twin Cities Orthopedics Performance Center in Eagan. 

Staff who are attending the combine have already packed up, and a few offices are still being cleaned out.

The team invited media members for a farewell tour on Tuesday. 

Rochelle Olson of the Star Tribune noted the logistics involved, like 20 truckloads that will be needed to carry 1,500-plus blue moving crates, and the fact that memories will also head east.

Olson wrote:

A big [memory] came on a summer day in 2009, when players and staff were finishing lunch in the Winter Park cafeteria while watching a live news feed of quarterback Brett Favre’s car en route to Eden Prairie.

When Favre’s vehicle rolled up, everyone lined up at the window to watch the surreal scene unfold — hundreds of cheering fans lining the roadway in front of the building. It was an indelible moment.

General Manager Rick Spielman recalled another as he pointed to an office chair.

“Jared Allen was sitting right there when he signed his contract,” Spielman said of the star defensive end.

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