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How likely are the rules proposals to pass for 2017?

With the owners approving the Raiders move to Las Vegas, the rules proposals will be under discussion at the owners’ meeting on Monday and extending into Tuesday.




With the owners approving the Raiders move to Las Vegas, the rules proposals will be under discussion at the owners’ meeting on Monday and extending into Tuesday. Football Zebras editors Ben Austro and Mark Schultz take a look at the proposals to see which ones have a chance at passing.

Special-teams blocking

Mark: I like both of these proposals. The snapper is very vulnerable in a scrimmage kick and needs the enhanced protection. Line leaping is a tough rule to officiate. When the leaper lands on the leaped it inflames the situation and exposes both players to serious injury. I hope both pass.

Ben: The era of the leaper on field goal attempts has come to an end. The NCAA is also considering a similar rule banning leaping with the NFL Competition Committee taking an advisory role on that change. This has a great chance of passing. The rule proposal to protect the long snapper will probably pass, but it seems like it will be a nightmare to officiate. Requiring the umpire (and the side judge on field goal attempts) to count a full second — not to mention the defensive linemen having to wait to engage contact — will be especially problematic.

Expanded crown-hit foul

Mark: This is another attempt to take the head out of the game. This rule cuts down on tough judgement calls. Under the new rule a crown hit is always a foul. This rule should pass.

Ben: This proposal comes from the Eagles, and I didn’t hear a lot of support from the Competition Committee. While the proposed rule does try to mitigate these battering-ram-type hits, a player who turns his head to the side to avoid this contact would still be penalized. I’m not sure that this will pass.

Replay proposals

Mark: The proposals to add more challenges just add more complicated layers. The changes would also add more stoppages and chop up the flow of a game. Commissioner Goodell has stated that he wants to speed up the pace of the game. All these proposals do is add time to the game when networks are antsy to get to the marquee match-up at 4:25 p.m., or to get to 60 Minutes or The Simpsons. Centralized replay? The NFL has had de facto centralized replay for a few years so they might as well make it official.

Ben: Ever since senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino took an interventionist role, as opposed to an advisory role, in the replay process, centralized replay was inevitable. There should be no change scene from previous years other than being quicker to dispense a replay decision. As there have been in previous years, there are a myriad of replay proposals — some of which are being retreaded this year — but they have routinely failed to pass an ownership vote.

10-minute overtime

Ben: This runs the risk of creating more ties, despite what the competition committee says. As covered here before, by tightening the time factor in the game, this adds more snaps to a smaller time frame, which is counterintuitive to the objective which is to reduce playing time for players. 

Mark: I am sick of the NFL tinkering with overtime. I’d rather have them go back to sudden death overtime; however everyone gets so offended when a team takes the opening kickoff and kicks the OT game-winner. Whatever. Leave overtime rules as is and quit tinkering.

Blocking rules

Mark: I like both proposals to add the wide receiver to a defenseless player designation unless in blocking posture and extending the illegal crack back blocks to a player in motion. Both should pass.

Ben: Player safety rules from the Competition Committee are usually short discussions, since the committee has already done their due diligence to review the rule and its consequences, intended or unintended. Quick passage by the owners.

Manipulating the clock and 10-second runoffs

Ben: This proposal is a reaction to two plays involving the 49ers and the Ravens this season. During the season, Blandino instructed officials to handle this as a “palpably unfair act,” a provision that gives a referee discretion beyond the rulebook, but has never been implemented in the NFL. Officials would have restored the time lost from deliberate fouls and assess a 15-yard penalty after a warning. Any midseason rule interpretation or adjustment must be addressed in the offseason; this codifies the interpretation and removes the need for a warning. 

Modifying the 10-second runoff rules to the two-minute warning rather than the one-minute mark makes for cleaner enforcement, as plays that end at 1:01, 1:00, and 0:59 really should be handled the same.

Mark: Both proposals to extend the 10-second runoff to two-minutes in the half (instead of one minute) and fouling to manipulate the clock is unsportsmanlike conduct (with a clock reset), are both fair and equitable changes that should pass.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"

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