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2010 Rule Changes

Officiating crews from the NFL stopped by camp yesterday to review some new rules, as such I thought this would be a good time to review them. Articles covering the rule changes are starting to pop up all over as officiating crews visit with teams and the local beat writers cover the rules, but the NFL has yet to release (at least not that I could find) an official link, and the rulebook that's on is actually just a summary. This site does a good job listing all the rule changes after the Ravens were visited by an officiating crew. 

Some of these are just slight amendments, others are quite drastic. 

Rule Change: Previously the umpire lined up in the defensive backfield about 4 to 5 yards downfield. His job is to watch for illegal motion, holding, false start, encroachment, etc. Since he's generally right in the defensive backfield he's often used as a screen by offensive players and is often knocked over. Starting this year he'll be moved into the offensive backfield opposite the referee.

During field goals, extra points, and inside the two-minute warning he'll be moved back to the defensive backfield.

Comments: I think this is a good move. It's not a good thing to see a referee knocked over by a man with pads.

Defenseless player rule:
Rule Change: Last year the rule was expanded to include hits to a wide receivers head or neck by the opponents arm and shoulder. (Previously it had been limited to shots with the helmet). The new rule expands this to all "defenseless" players. Defenseless players include: QBs in the act of throwing, WRs in the act of catching, a runner who's "in the grasp" of a defensive player and who's forward progress is stopped, a player on the ground at the end of the play, a kicker/punter after the ball has been kicked and a QB after change of possession (i.e. no clocking the QB after he throws an INT or the running back coughs up the ball).

Violations can result in a 15 yard penalty, automatic first down and fines/discipline from the NFL.

Comments: Good changes again. Those kinds of hits can seriously damage a player's body, ending seasons or even careers


Wide Receivers:
Rule Change: If a receiver has completed a catch and has not had time to protect himself, a defensive player is prohibited from launching into him in a way that causes the defensive players' helmet, facemask, shoulder or forearm to forcibly strike the receiver in the head or neck area.

A "launch" is defined as leaving your feet to spring forward and upward into an opponent.

Hits such as these will result in a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty and potential discipline by the league.

If the receiver has the ball long enough to protect himself or the defender does not launch himself as part of the hit, it is not a foul.

I'm not sure how I feel about this one. I don't think that there should be extra protection for the WR beyond the basic "defenseless player" rule. Part of being a WR is making sure to hang on to that ball when you know the ferocious hit is coming.


The Brian Jennings Rule:
Rule Change: Since the long snapper has his head down at the beginning of the play he's helpless to protect himself. Last year the rule was changed to forbid direct lining up but defensive players still shaded in. Now a defensive player must have his whole body (including hands) lined up outside the long snappers shoulder pads.

Another good move. With his head down and feet interlocked with the next guy the LS is the most vulnerable player on kicks. Any extra protection is good.


The Shaun Hill rule
Rule Change: Anytime a ball carrier loses his helmet the play is instantly dead.

I think this is a great change. Yeah it shows grit and determination and all that jazz, but it's incredibly dangerous.

The Arnaz Battle rule
Rule Change: After a valid fair catch signal, the opportunity to catch a kick does not end if the ball if muffed. The player who signaled for the fair catch must have a reasonable opportunity to catch the muffed kick before it hits the ground without interference from the kicking team players.

The good news for coverage units--if interference happens it's no longer a 15 yard penalty. Instead the receiving team will be awarded the ball at the spot of the interference.

Another good change. I like both changes here--give the receiving guy a chance to catch it, but reduce the penalties and coverage units.


The Flozell Adams Rule:
Rule Change: If a penalty occurs when time has expired at the end of either half, the penalty yardage is assessed on the next kickoff. Example: Let's say time is running out in the first half, VD scores a TD and the clock goes to 0:00, when DD gets into a shoving match. DD gets called for a personal foul of 15 yards. Previously that would have been that since there was no time. Now that yardage gets applied on the 3rd quarter kickoff.

In the 4th quarter it would go to overtime if the game is tied.

Comments: I can't see that this is going to have much impact--how often do dead ball fouls actually happen?


The Brett Favre rule:
Rule Change: Each team must have the opportunity to posses the ball once in overtime. However, if the team that wins the coin toss scores a touchdown on their initial possession, the game is over. If the team that wins the coin toss scores a field goal on their initial possession, the game is not over. Their opponent much be given an opportunity to possess the ball

If the score remains tied after both teams have been given the opportunity to posses the ball, the game continues under normal ‘sudden death' rules.

The opportunity to possess applies only during kicking plays. The kick-off is the ‘opportunity to possess' for the kicking team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity. A punt or missed field goal that crosses the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team is considered to be an ‘opportunity to possess' for the receiving team.

This rule change applies to post-season games only.

I'm glad they're working on the OT rules but it's still too complicated. Just make it so that the first person to six or more points wins--simple, direct and done with.

The Jerry Jones Rule:
If a ball hits a score board, video board, sky cam, or wires, the play is blown dead and started over without loss of down or time spent.

How often is this going to happen? I guess you have to put something in the rulebook for it but it's not really an issue to me.


The Soccer Player Rule:
Rule Change: Apparently the league is reminding players not to call for a foul after a play. No penalty on this yet, but you might start seeing some unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called for it.

I like it. Quite honestly yelling at a ref to throw the flag never works.


Number Changes:

Not that I really care but defensive linemen can now wear any number from 50-59. Those used to be reserved for outside linebackers.

The "Your Team Just Got Screwed" Rule:
Rule Change: If the clock is stopped in the final minute of either half for a replay review, but wouldn't have stopped without the review, officials will run off 10 seconds before resuming play. Either team could take a timeout to void the 10-second runoff.

I hate this rule. Imagine this scenario: 20 seconds left in the game, down by 4, at the 30 yard line, no timeouts left. Alex throws an 8 yard pass to Josh Morgan who doesn't get out of bounds to stop the clock. The team is hurrying up to the LOS to spike the ball to stop the clock, with 12 seconds left, when the booth calls for a re-play on whether or not the ball was caught. They rule that it was caught and since the time would not have stopped otherwise suddenly the Niners are left with only 2 seconds on the clock. Had they been able to spike the ball they might have had time for two more plays, as it is they've got time for one.

As you can see I really don't like this one at all, but I don't know what the answer is. You can't have a booth review giving a team an extra time out, but it doesn't seem fair to take away time from a team either.

Not really an on-field rule, but now if a player suffers a concussion he has to be evaluated by an independent neurologist before being allowed back in. This means no returning to the same game, and possibly sitting out the next as well. I think this is a good thing as well, though I think that if the league spent more money on researching helmets and standardizing them that would prove to be even more productive.