NFL tweaks procedures, rules

The NFL instituted no major changes to its rules, but did some tweaking to rules governing illegal blocks, ineligible receivers and stadium procedures.

The NFL decided to hold off on expanding the playoffs or immediately change how extra points are administered at the annual owners meetings this week in Phoenix, but several rules were refined based on recommendations from teams or the Competition Committee and approved by a vote of the owners.

Among the changes:

  • An offensive player wearing the number of an eligible pass receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the tackle box. The rule change comes after the New England Patriots were accused of using the former rule to confuse their opponent in the playoffs. “Competitive fairness” was cited as the reason for the change.

  • Stadiums with retractable roofs or walls will be allowed to be open the retractable feature at halftime if they it was closed in the first half. The recommendation came at the suggestion of the Competition Committee to enhance the fan experience. The determination of whether the opening of the retractable feature is allowed by the weather conditions will be made with two minutes remaining in the second quarter based on the conditions with five minutes remaining in the second quarter. Head coaches must be notified of any changes immediately at the conclusion of the first half.

  • Linebackers will be allowed to wear jersey numbers in the 40s, in addition to those in the 50s.

  • Officials will be allowed to review the time on the game clock at on the final play of a half or overtime by the instant replay system.

  • No player will be allowed to execute a “peel back” block. Previously, that restriction was for players aligned in the tackle box at the snap of the ball. If the near shoulder of the blocker contacts the front of his opponent’s body, the block is legal.

  • Enforcement of an unsportsmanlike conduct foul at the end of a half will be done on the ensuing kickoff at the start of the next period.

  • A chop block penalty can now be enforced outside of the area originally occupied by the tight end.

  • If a player is placed on the reserve/physically-unable-to-perform list, he can begin practicing on the sixth calendar day prior to the team’s seventh regular-season game, rather than the day after their sixth game. It would allow that player more practice days in the event of a Thursday night game in Week 7.

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