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NFL rule changes and points of emphasis for the 2016-17 regular season

A look at important rule changes for this upcoming football season.

FLORHAM PARK, N.J. - Every year in March, all 32 NFL owners gather in unison after the NFL Combine to vote on any new rules proposed by the NFL Competition Committee. The meeting aims to provide clarity for coaches and players alike, while adding nuances to the game that make competition fair, and keep the fans entertained. Commissioner Roger Goodell has been catching flack regarding player safety, so don't be surprised that some of the changes this year as in years previous, involve minimizing contact.

The outcome of this year's meeting resulted in nine new changes that will effect the upcoming season. Here's some of what the owners approved to implement this year.

No Chop Blocks:

The league is looking out for defensive players on this one. Blockers can no longer aim for the lower legs of a defender, so when an offensive lineman gets out front as a lead blocker he may need to execute a more traditional block on run or pass plays. However, if the defense first initiates contact above the waist of a player there is no foul.

Expansion of the Horse Collar Rule:

The rule expands the horse collar zone beyond just the neck area of the jersey. Pulling a runner down by the name plate area of his jersey is now illegal.

Illegal Touching:

If an offensive player runs out of bounds and is the first to touch or catch a forward pass the play will not count and that team will lose a down. Last year, this violation would result in a five-yard penalty on the offending team and a do-over of the down.


"Permit offensive and defensive play callers on each team’s coaching staff to use the coach-to-player communication system whether they are on the field or in the coaches’ booth. Previously, the play caller had to be on the sideline to be allowed to communicate with the designated player."

Extra Points:

The line of scrimmage for extra point attempts will permanently be the 15-yard line. The defense can return any failed try. This change was introduced last season but is now permanent.

The next two rules are on a one-year trial run and will be voted on for permanent adoption in 2017.

Unsportsmanlike Conduct Fouls:

A player will be ejected after committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalty's. This pertains to fighting, touchdown celebrations (taunting), and vulgar language towards opponents or officials.

Touchbacks at the 25:

Touchbacks will now be spotted at the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line. Coaches will have to approach special teams more strategically because this gives the offense more room to operate.

One major point of emphasis this year will be non-players entering the field of play. "A coach cannot leave the bench area to question a game official, and at no time is a coach allowed onto the field of play. At no time can an assistant coach leave the bench area, even during breaks after scoring plays. These rules remain in effect during any timeout." Coaches may only leave the bench area when calling a timeout, discarding a challenge, or checking on an injured player.  For short, fans will recognize this as the "Joey Porter rule." The Pittsburgh Steelers' linebacker coach was on the field when he got into an altercation with Cincinnati Bengals defensive back Adam Jones during the AFC wild card round. Jones was penalized 15 yards on the play which helped the Steelers win the game. But this year Porter will be penalized 15 yards for unsportsmanlike conduct if the incident were to reoccur.

On a side note, the NFL updated its verbiage on what is and isn't a catch. Over the years we've learned how controversial this rule can be watching infamous crunch time non-catches by wide-outs Dez Bryant and Calvin Johnson. I'll spare readers and refrain from trying to provide a clear explanation on a definition that certainly has some gray areas.

But enough of all this rule talk Jets training camp is less than a week away, and while coaches call plays and players take reps, referees will not only be adjusting their lanyard's, but they'll need to adjust to the new rules.

For more information on these changes, head to the NFL Football Operations website for the official NFL 2016 Rulebook and video demonstrations of certain penalties.


Marcus Reynolds is a staff writer for Jetsinsider.com. He can be reached on Twitter (@Marcus_JRNL) or email (mcreyn17@gmail.com)

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