Amid a blizzard of free-agency news and continued chatter about Peyton Manning's status in the build-up to the start of the new league year March 10, perhaps the most important matters related to the 2015 season on a league-wide basis are being discussed in Naples, Fla., where the Competition Committee meets.
NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent and the Committee laid out the talking points for the week, which include, in his words:
- Modifying what is reviewable under instant replay
- Exploring processes and procedures of how a medical timeout would work
- Discussing banning the chop block
- Ensuring that the review process covers what was called on the field and does not create new fouls
- Refining the definition of a hit on a defenseless player
- Adding an eighth official
- Making the extra point more challenging
- Using tablets on the sideline and for video replay and moving closer to our "sideline of the future" by adopting new technology
- Continuing to enhance our concussion protocol
- Increasing our standards for equipment that may make our game safer
None of these are a surprise, and the specific proposals that arise from these issues and make it to the Competition Committee will bear monitoring.
Last year, some of the proposed rules changes brought forth by teams at the league meetings included expanding replay to include personal fouls, and allowing the coach to challenge any official's decision, except for plays that went to automatic review (turnovers, scoring plays and calls inside the last two minutes of each half). The Patriots made the latter proposal.
There remains resistance in some circles throughout the NFL to expanding replay's tentacles to encompass too many areas, so don't expect New England's 2014 idea to get any traction.
Another key item is extra points, which were moved back for two full preseason weeks and the Pro Bowl. Kickers hit 94.3 percent of their extra points with the line of scrimmage at the 15, compared with 99.3 percent at the traditional spot during the regular season. Based on the trial run last summer, momentum appears to favor moving PATs back.
The chatter about tablets is also worth examining. Players and coaches are allowed to use Microsoft Surface tablets on the sideline, but only on a limited basis; they cannot view video, and are limited to all-22 stills that they can study and draw on with a stylus.
Saturday, Vincent tweeted that the Committee discussed some other items:
The roster discussions are particularly interesting, because last year, there was a proposal to increase the active roster for Thursday, Friday and Saturday games from 46 players to 49.
This would not benefit a team besieged by short-term injuries, which is where an "auxiliary list" could come into play. One example is the Broncos in Week 17. Five of their seven inactive players were on the injury report, so in effect, their roster could only increase to 48 unless they have the ability to make a call-up from an "auxiliary list" -- perhaps created out of the practice squad -- without removing a player from the 53-man roster.
The London games have been a success at the gate and in increasing the NFL's presence in the United Kingdom. But there have been complaints about the quality of the field at Wembley Stadium, specifically large divots and the general slickness of the pitch, which is normally used for matches hosted by the Football Association, which governs national and club soccer in England.
Further, the games have often been one-sided. Three of the last six London games were decided by at least 24 points and the average margin in that span is 19.3 points, although one game last year (Lions-Falcons) went down to the last play.
One remedy for that could be to select more potentially competitive matchups. On Nov. 1, the Lions and Chiefs will meet at Wembley Stadium; this is just the third of 14 regular-season games in London to match two teams that had winning records the previous season.