Along with the catch rule, referee Walt Coleman outlined five rules changes and five points of emphasis for the upcoming season.
FIVE RULES CHANGES
— Chop blocks, defined as a two-man, high-low block, are illegal.
— If a player is penalized twice in a game for unsportsmanlike conduct, he will be ejected. “Unsportsmanlike fouls — taunting, swinging and missing — those are the type fouls that we’re talking about,” Coleman said. “The regular personal fouls don’t count toward the disqualification. It’s basically stuff that we would have always in the past called taunting, the ones that have the tendency to create ill will and lead to fights.”
— The horse-collar rule has been expanded to tackling by the back of the jersey at the nameplate or above. The rule does not apply to a quarterback or running back in the tackle box.
— Instead of the 20-yard line, the receiving will take possession at the 25 following a kickoff.
— If a team with no timeouts is granted a timeout, the team will be penalized for delay of game. There is no penalty if the officials don’t grant the timeout.
POINTS OF EMPHASIS
— When a quarterback scrambles, the defender must avoid “forcible contact,” as long as the quarterback begins his slide before a tackle is “imminent.” In the video shown to players around the league, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is shown sliding long before he would be tackled by a defender. “If he waits until the last minute and slides and they hit him in his body, it’s OK,” Coleman said. “The whole idea is to protect the quarterback and slide. It’s not to see how many yards a quarterback can get and slide at the last minute. Aaron could have run further but he slid before there was anybody around. That’s what you want. Some of these guys are trying to get as many yards as they can get, and that opens them up to the problem of somebody hitting them after they’ve started their slide. The key is to start to slide early enough and feet-first, not some sideways slide or head-first slide.”
— Presnap movement by offensive linemen is allowed only if that movement is “smooth and deliberate.” Part of the focus of that rule is forbidding centers from moving the ball too much. “As I was talking to Coach (Mike McCarthy), it makes it hard because centers usually have shorter arms than the other offensive linemen and that’s why they’re a center,” Coleman said. “When they have to get into position to look up, that makes them move the ball. I said, ‘Well, unfortunately, some people are using that to their advantage by moving that football, drawing the defense offside.’ Once the offensive line gets set, we’re going to be more restrictive with what the center can do with the football. Tilting that nose up on its nose, that’s going to be a false start.” The key language is “smooth and deliberate.” Said Coleman: “If they’re doing it one way the whole game and then on third-and-3 and it’s abrupt, that’s a false start.”
— “Forcible contact” of a quarterback at or below the knees while he’s in the pocket will result in a 15-yard penalty for roughing the passer.
— Blindside blocks on kickoff and punt returns are legal only if they’re above the waste and below the neck.
— Striking a player with the crown of the helmet is illegal. The video commended players for adapting but added, “we must remain vigilant in this area.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at email@example.com or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.