ENGLEWOOD, Colo. – The NFL Competition Committee proposed a series of rule changes at the owners meetings in Scottsdale, Ariz. on Monday.
Below is a listing of the committee’s proposals:
Initiating Contact with Crown of Helmet Illegal
In an effort to continue expanding player-safety initiatives, the competition committee has proposed making it illegal for any player – offensive or defensive – to create contact using the crown of his helmet.
This rule would be in place outside of the tackle box, which runs tackle-to-tackle along the line of scrimmage and three yards down field.
“Basically, the best way to phrase this is we’re bringing the shoulder back in the game,” said St. Louis Rams Head Coach Jeff Fisher, who is a member of the competition committee. “We all know the helmet is a protective device; it’s not designed to be used like it’s being used as of late and we want to protect our players, specifically out in space.”
Regardless of whether the offensive or defensive player breaks that rule, it would result in a 15-yard penalty from the spot of the foul.
Like other player-safety penalties, these types of hits would be subject to additional discipline from the league office.
Tuck Rule Rescinded
The committee has proposed eliminating the “tuck rule” that famously benefited the New England Patriots in their Divisional Round win over the Oakland Raiders in 2002.
Under the proposed change, if a quarterback loses control of the ball while bringing it back into his body, the ruling would be a fumble.
The change simplifies a complicated rule that is often difficult to see even on instant replay.
If the quarterback’s arm is going forward and the ball comes loose, it is an incomplete pass. Otherwise, it’s a fumble.
“As soon as the passer attempts bring the ball back to his body or actually tuck it back to his body, if it comes out it’s a fumble,” Fisher said. “Officials are getting it right and we all think it’s a fumble, so now let it be a fumble.”
Tight End Jersey Numbers Expanded
Currently tight ends are limited to numbers 80-89. The new proposal would also allow players at that position to wear numbers 40-49.
“We have a lot of tight ends and H-backs now that are starting to wear 40 numbers, and currently in the rule book it doesn’t permit them to,” Fisher said. “So we’re going to allow tight ends, H-backs and fullbacks to wear the 40 numbers.”
Instant Replay Challenge Penalty Changed
Under the new proposal, when a coach throws the challenge flag in a situation that is automatically reviewed, that team would be charged with a timeout – not a penalty. The only time the team would receive a penalty for that would be if it was out of timeouts or challenges, or threw the challenge flag in the final two minutes of the half when all reviews come from the replay booth.
“That’s the Thanksgiving Day game, the Detroit play,” NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said. “Coach (Jim) Schwartz threw the flag when it was an automatic review by the replay official. So take that same play in 2013, the play still gets reviewed but Detroit is charged a timeout. If they don’t have a timeout, then it’s a 15-yard penalty.”
Even if a team is penalized, the play would still be reviewed.
Peel-Back Blocks Below the Waist Eliminated
To avoid repeats of the play that injured Texans linebacker Brian Cushing, the committee has proposed making it illegal for an offensive player to block low on “peel-back” blocks.
“The peel-back block is an act usually by an offensive player that’s going to go downfield and move down the line of scrimmage and then turn back towards his own endline and then block low,” Fisher said. “What we’re proposing now is that under no circumstances will you be permitted to block low below the waist when you’re blocking back towards your own endline.”
Previously, those types of blocks were allowed as long as the block occurred inside the tackle box.
Special Teams Player-Safety Proposal
As an added protection to blockers on field goal or extra-point attempts, the committee has proposed limiting how the defense can line up and rush.
Under the proposed rule change, teams could have no more than six players lined up on either side of the snapper.
“Because we clean up the A gaps with the snapper, he gets protection, you only have four gaps and that includes the outside gap,” Fisher said. “They were creating situations where you were getting four and five guys on two, or three guys on one. When the protection teams’ legs typically are interlocked – their feet are – they have no way to protect themselves.”
Rushers will no longer be allowed to go low in another effort to protect the legs of the blockers.
Additionally, players will not be allowed to line up directly across from the snapper.
“He becomes a defenseless player,” Blandino said. “So when he’s in the process of snapping the football he becomes a defenseless player like a receiver does attempting to catch a pass. Can’t hit him in the head or neck, can’t hit him with the crown or forehead hairline parts of the helmet.”
The penalty for violating the new alignment rule would be a 5 yards for illegal formation. If the rusher attempted to go low, it would be a 15-yard penalty, similar to the rule on punts and kickoffs.