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NFL rule changes: League making Jim Harbaugh sideline wanderings a point of emphasis

The NFL is making sideline discipline a point of emphasis in 2013. We might as well call it the Jim Harbaugh Rule.


Each year, the NFL considers various rule changes, but also looks at "points of emphasis". A point of emphasis is taking an existing rule and enforcing it much more strictly. This year, sideline discipline is one such point of emphasis. NFL executive VP of football operations Ray Anderson discussed the changes:

"We need to be much more disciplined about where our coaches go in terms of the box and venturing out on the field beyond traditional markers is something that is just not appropriate. It can interfere and it can be viewed as intimidating, and we really are going to rein that in."
"There are borders, but, very frankly, they're loosely enforced. But they will be more aggressively enforced going forward because we need to rein it in."

This news is a couple days old, but I figured it was relevant enough to get posted anyway. After all, plenty of people are already calling this the Jim Harbaugh Rule. Coach Harbaugh is no stranger to aggressively wandering the sideline. There is no doubt Coach Harbaugh gets particularly fired up during games and finds himself making his way onto the field to get his point across to officials.

In interviews, he has said he won't change his personality to suit some pre-conceived notion about how he is supposed to act. This is perfectly fine, but he will have to watch himself when it comes to going on the field. According to Anderson, coaches will get an "appropriate warning", and if they continue to venture past the boundaries, the team will be flagged. Repeat offenders could also get fined.

Coach Harbaugh addressed the topic on Friday. While he respects the rules, he also pointed to instances down near the end zone, where extra space is needed. The most notable instance is when the team is down near the goal line:

"Well, sometimes you have to go down to call a time out," he said. "The officials tell you to go down there. If they're down on the 10 (yard line) or the 5, you've got to go down there to get their attention because they're not looking over at the coaching box."

Coach Harbaugh said he had not yet seen the language of the point of emphasis. We'll see how this plays out as we head into the 2013 season.