With the offseason rapidly progressing, NFL owners gathered on Wednesday to vote on potential rule changes for the 2014 season.
While several proposals were voted down, there are some fairly significant changes on the horizon.
Perhaps the most intriguing among them relates to extra points. There has been plenty of talk about making PATs more challenging in the near future, and the league took a big step toward accomplishing that.
According to Bob Glauber of New York's Newsday, longer extra points will be tested in teams' first two preseason games in 2014 by placing the ball at the 20-yard line rather than the 2-yard line:
In first two NFL preseason games, extra point kicks will be placed at the 20. Two-point conversion remains at 2.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
Although moving the extra point spot to the 25-yard line was discussed, that proposal was tabled in favor of the preseason trial run:
Proposal to move PAT kick to 25-yard line on permanent basis for regular season games was tabled.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
Another rule change that will impact the kicking game is lengthening the uprights by five feet, which was also approved:
NFL owned approved measure to extend goals posts five feet. Also approved loose ball rule (Navorro Bowman play).— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
This change is being enacted to avoid situations in which the ball goes over one of the goalposts, forcing the officials to make a difficult judgment call.
The rule passed with plenty of support, including some from Dallas Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett, per NFL.com's Marc Sessler:
Cowboys coach Jason Garrett told me extending the goal posts 'just made sense.' Said 'that passed relatively easily.'— Marc Sessler (@MarcSesslerNFL) March 26, 2014
According to NFL.com's Albert Breer, the league also passed what is being called the "NaVorro Bowman rule."
NaVorro Bowman rule approved.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 26, 2014
This relates to a play involving the San Francisco 49ers linebacker in the NFC Championship Game against the Seattle Seahawks. Although Bowman had clearly recovered a fumble by Seahawks wide receiver Jermaine Kearse, it was ruled that Seattle had recovered, and the play was not reviewable.
Such mistakes now figure to be avoided during the upcoming season and beyond.
Another minor change will ensure that the game clock runs following quarterback sacks prior to the two-minute mark:
Game clock will continue after QB sack outside of 2 minutes, per approved rule.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 26, 2014
While several modifications are being made, other proposed changes were voted down. That includes expanded replay on personal fouls as well as replay for all plays over the course of a game:
Owners defeated measure to permit replay challenges on personal fouls. Also voted down Pats proposal to include all plays for replay review.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
The majority of NFL head coaches were against the latter proposal:
Jeff Fisher on the proposal to make all plays reviewable: "The support among the coaches was less than 50 percent."— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 26, 2014
Also, owners decided against moving kickoffs from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line:
NFL owners voted down Washington's proposal to move kickoffs to the 40 from the 35.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
The league additionally tabled several proposals and will review them at a later date. The potential abolition of overtime in preseason games will be revisited in May:
Elimination of overtime in the NFL preseason was tabled by league owners.— Bob Glauber (@BobGlauber) March 26, 2014
The expansion of replay cameras along the boundary was tabled as well:
Added cameras for replay tabled. Will be looked at this season.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 26, 2014
“I would favor it as long as it doesn’t lessen the significance of division play, and I mean that,” Tomlin said, according to a transcript of his remarks from the Pro Football Writers of America. “I love the structure of division play and what it means from a playoff-seeding standpoint. If it doesn’t lessen that in any way, then obviously I’m all ears.”
Tomlin made it clear he hoped division winners would continue to host wild card games.
“I don’t want to lessen that in any way,” Tomlin said. “I don’t.”
While nothing particularly groundbreaking was decided on Wednesday, it certainly appears as though the NFL is trending toward some significant changes in the near future.
Which NFL rule change do you support most?
The wheels have been set in motion regarding the extra point situation, and it's difficult to argue with the notion that something has to be done. The extra point is ironically the most pointless play in sports, so any suggestion to spice it up should be considered.
It is also encouraging to see more freedom added when it comes to replay. Even though several specific types of plays still can't be reviewed, that is something that will likely be considered for a long time to come.
Although it remains to be seen how attractive these new rule changes will be on the field, the league should be applauded for constantly thinking of ways to improve the product.
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