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NFL Lockout: Discussing Rule Changes In Spite of No Football

Courtesy of the AJC, the owners are rallying together in New Orleans. If I read correctly, they're gathering together to discuss their yearly rule discussion which, of course, does no good if they don't get the important part of the football act together: the actual game.

Naturally, they would be having this meeting anyway, with or without an agreement, so not much can be said about whether they should be holding this meeting now or not.

The rules changes have been previewed, but let's break 'em down after the jump.

This isn't the first time the rules have been brought up on this site, but I'm here to hash out the most current list of what will be going down, plus offer up a discussion on the matter. This is important to us because our own Rich McKay is the chairman of the competition committee and he probably has someone, somewhere reading our opinions on the matter, even if they don't sway him at all.

Now, to the rules themselves:

First and foremost, repeat tackling fail offenders will be suspended. The first issue I have with this rule is how do you know what constitutes a blatant hit and what doesn't? Yes, there were obvious hits, like the one on Todd Heap (I forget who did it, though I think it was a Steeler) but football is played at such high speed, hits like the one to Mohamed Massoquoi (by James Harrison) are hard to determine whether they were intentional or not, since in that case MoMass ducked as he was catching the ball and then Harrison met him shoulder-to-helmet because he wasn't really looking. The not looking part I could understand, but a lot of whether hits are intentional or not is subjective.

Next, kickoffs and touchbacks to be moved, along with a limited starting distance behind kicker. The new kickoff rule would have touchbacks coming out to the 25, as well as having the kickoff come from the 35 instead of the 30. Players will also no longer be able to line up more than 5 yards behind the kicker.

This rule seems a bit silly to me, but if they say there have been more injuries on kickoffs lately, then I suppose they're right since I really don't know. I'm all for the 5 yard lineup rule, but really, how long does it take an NFL player to get up to full speed? Not very far. Most of the kickers in the league can kick to the goal line or farther as it stands. If they bless the kickers with another 5 yards of room, kickers like Koenen will be kicking through the uprights on every kickoff, and I think that takes away from one of the most exciting aspects of the game (and my personal favorite): the kickoff return.

Lastly, a reexamination of a defenseless player. I agree that defenseless players should not have their heads taken off by a bloodthirsty defensive player. That said, this is a violent sport and that should be understood first and foremost. Here's the proposed rulings for what classifies a defenseless player as such:

The receivers will join the quarterback, returners catching kicks or punts, runners in the grasp, players on the ground, a kicker or a punter in getting additional protection as defenseless players.

They are trying to standardize the protection for all eight categories of the defenseless player. Those eight categories include

*         the quarterback or the player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;

*         the receiver attempting to catch a pass, which includes the receiver who hasn’t completed a catch or had time to protect himself;

*         number three is a runner who’s already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;

*         number four is a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air;

*         number five is a player on the ground at the end of a play;

*         number six is a kicker or punter during the kick or during the return;

*         number seven is quarterback at any time after a change of possession;

*         and number eight is a player who receives a blindside block. So those are the eight categories of defenseless players. We just want to be sure that we write the rules very clearly and that all eight of those categories have the exact same protection.


The only one I really have qualms with is number seven, the QB at any time after a change of possession. These guys, fragile as they can be sometimes, are still football players. If they're the only man between a DB and the end zone, then they have every right to be lit up just like any other player, so long as it falls within the rules and if they're making a legit attempt to stop the defensive player. If you don't want your QB getting hit, tell him to fall down if he throws a pick or tell him to run off the field after a pick. These guys are men, too. They take more destructive hits than many of the other players, so really, I'm not sure why they'd include that.

Some defensive players like to blast the QB if he's away from the play (after an INT or the like) because they don't normally get to do that and he's technically "a defender" at that point. I'm not suggesting that should happen. In fact, I'm personally against stupidity like that. However, if the QB is making an attempt to stop the defender, aka being a part of the game, then he should be able to be hit like anyone else, so long as it falls within the rules.

Last #2, instant replay changes. The proposed rule (which will likely happen, if you ask me) will say that all scoring plays are reviewable and will be done only by the referees/booth and not the coaches. In tandem with that rule change, the third challenge will be removed from the game. If both of those rules come in, I'd personally be fine with that, since many challenges come on scoring plays and really, the third challenge isn't used all that much. When you take away any and every potential challenge that would be thrown on a scoring play, the third challenge becomes almost obsolete.

That being said, removing the third challenge seems silly, as it is like one of those rules that just always hangs around because of the necessity of it when it was first implemented.

There's my opinion on the rules. What is your opinion on them? Should the owners be talking CBA and not rules right now?