BEREA—NFL referee Mike Carey was in Berea on Friday to discuss the league's latest rules changes. Carey spent about 15 minutes in the Dino Lucarelli Media Center fielding questions from the media regarding the six rule changes in 2010.
"Every aspect of these rules are pretty complicated," Carey said. "The more prepared we are the better we are to adapt when things happen. The rules provide a good framework for what is supposed to happen."
Carey, as well as three other members of his crew, were in Berea for three days spending time on the practice field and in meeting rooms with players and coaches.
"We have 17 crews and they're broken down to teams of four and three," Carey said. "We have a presence at every camp. When things happen during high speed collisions, they're not easy to detect. You have to get your eye adapted to the speed and what happens when you're on the field. Once you have a lot of reps on the field or in a film room, you get more comfortable."
As for those six changes:
1. Protection of defenseless receivers. The league now prohibits hits to the head and neck by defenders on defenseless receivers. Defenders who leave their feet to spring onward and upward into an opponent is a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty. Defenders are being told to stay away from the head and neck.
2. Long snapper protection. According to the NFL, long snappers are in a defenseless position at the start of play. In 2009, on field goal and extra point attempts, a rule was enacted to prevent defensive players on the line of scrimmage from lining up over the snapper. Instead, the defender's helmet had to line up with the shoulder pads of the long snapper.
This season, the long snapper's protection has been expanded. A defender, who is on the line of scrimmage, must have his entire body line up outside the snapper's shoulder pads. This applies to field goals, extra points and punts.
3. Play is whistled dead as soon as the ball carrier's helmet comes off. If a player, who has possession of a ball, has his helmet come off during a play, the whistle is blown and the play is dead. The ball will be spotted at the yard line the helmet came off and the game and play clocks will be set as if the runner was ruled down by contact.
4. Interference of the opportunity to catch a muffed kick. The player who signals for a fair catch must have a reasonable opportunity to catch the muff before it hits the ground without interference from the kicking team's players.
5. Dead ball personal fouls at the end of the second and fourth quarters. If there is a deal ball personal foul called on either the offense or defense, there will be no option to extend the half. Instead, penalty yardage is enforced in the second half kickoff or overtime kickoff, if the game is tied.
6. Playoff overtime rules. It is only enforced during a playoff game. Each team must have possession of the ball once in overtime. If a team wins the coin toss and scores a touchdown on its initial possession, the game is over. If a team wins the coin toss and converts a field goal the game is not over. The opponent must be given the opportunity to possess the ball.
If both teams remained tied after each have had a possession, the game continues under normal sudden rules.
Now, a kick off is an opportunity to gain possession. If the kicking team recovers a fumble on the kickoff, it is considered the receiving team had an opportunity for possession. If a punt or missed field goal cross the line of scrimmage and is muffed by the receiving team, it's considered an opportunity for possession for the receiving team.
Again, this is for postseason games only.
Also, there were some "points of emphasis" the NFL will be keeping an eye on in 2010.
•Players who jester referees to throw the flag after the play will not be tolerated.
•Player safety, whether it's runners who are hit late out of bounds, ball carriers who are slammed to the ground after forward progress has been stopped, striking an opponent with a hand, forearm or elbow, all can result in 15-yard penalties.
•The position of the umpire will be moved for a majority of the game. Last season, the umpire was positioned among the linebackers. After seeing an increase in the number of collisions between players and umpires, the umpire is moving to the offensive backfield opposite of the referee. The umpire will be behind the offense on all plays except field goal tries and inside two minutes of the second and fourth quarters.
"The idea was in the last two minutes of the half and game there is not as much traffic inside the middle as it is the rest of the game," Carey said. "Within two minutes, the speed of the game is so rapid, for us to stop the ball from 15 yards away like we do the rest of the game would be difficult."