The NFL is considering a lot of changes to the rules at this week's owners meetings. Here is a point-by-point look at them.
The NFL owners will convene Sunday in Orlando for four days of meetings and they will have a lot of topics to discuss – some critical to the game and others more personalized proposals to change the rules of the game.
One of the primary topics will concern the expectation that the league will expand the playoffs by two teams. The proposal, which seems almost sure to pass at some point, isn't likely to take effect immediately, but by 2015 seems more likely than not.
Under the proposal, there would be one team added to the playoffs in each conference and that would entail adding two games. That would be achieved by allowing only the team with the best record in each conference to get a bye and the other six teams would all play on wild card weekend. There will be discussion as to whether the three division champions would automatically play at home against the three wild card teams or if the teams would be seeded 1 to 7 based solely on record, which could have a scenario in which a team wins its division but doesn't get a home game as a reward.
There are several other proposed rules changes that will be discussed include:
Moving the extra point line back to 25-yard line, effectively making every extra point a 43-yard field goal attempt. It may prompt more teams to go for two-point conversions, which would still be snapped from the 2-yard line.
Expanding instant replay. There are a couple of proposals up for discussion as it pertains to replay, including expanding replay to include personal foul penalties and the potential for the officials to use a replay official at the league office to consult on difficult calls, much in the same way the NHL reviews scoring plays from the home office in Toronto.
Increasing the protection of a player's legs by expanding the rules for hitting a player in the knees to include the side of the knee. Currently, the rule just applies to the back of a player's legs, but would expand the rule to protect players from chop blocks. Anything that can help preserve a player's knees is something worth considering.
Including verbal slurs – primary the N-word and "other F-word" (the one that deals with sexual orientation) – as unsportsmanlike conduct penalties. This one will be a hard sell because the language on the field and in a locker room has always been a little rough and it will be difficult to legislate free speech, even if vulgar or inappropriate.
Expand the plays that can be reviewed to include personal fouls.
Re-evaluate what plays can and can't be reviewed. This rule stems from the fumble recovery by Navarro Bowman in the NFC Championship that wasn't allowed to be reviewed because the play wasn't ruled a fumble. It would liberalize what plays can be challenged.
In a sweeping proposed change, allow a coach to challenge any referee's decision except for scoring plays, which are always subject to review without being challenged. This one could be taking the replay rule too far, because it would allow volatile, tantrum-throwing coaches like Jim Harbaugh to challenge anything he disagrees with, which is basically any call that doesn't go his way.
Eliminate overtime in the preseason. Everyone should be in favor of that.
Moving the kickoff line to the 40-yard line. That is a ruling that will be the next step to rendering dynamic kick returners nearly moot.
Keeping the clock running after a sack. Currently, when a quarterback is sacked, the clock stops until the ball is set at the new line of scrimmage. Late in games it can actually help the team that has its quarterback sacked because the clock typically stops for about five seconds before the ball is placed down for play and the offense can reset in those critical few seconds.
Alter pass interference penalties to allow them to be called within one yard of the line of scrimmage instead of the current five. With all the rules changes that have been made over the years to neutralize physical cornerbacks, this one may be taking it a bit too far.
Enforce defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage to the spot of the snap, not the spot of the foul. This one makes sense because there shouldn't be a "reward" for having a 15-yard penalty actually become an 8-yarder because it took place in the backfield.
Put six cameras on all of the boundary lines, one in in each corner, along the sideline and at the goal lines to guarantee that all games have the same access to multiple review angles as nationally televised games.
Allow a team that plays in a stadium with a retractable roof to close or open it at halftime. Under the current rules, a team must decide prior to the start of a game whether to open or close the roof and it can't be changed once the game has begun.
Extend the goal posts an additional five feet above the crossbar. This one was proposed by Bill Belichick.
In addition, there are several bylaw proposals that will be discussed. These include:
Eliminating the cut-down from 90 players to 75. Instead, there would only be one cut-down date following the final preseason game that would drop rosters from 90 to 53.
Increase the number of active players on a regular season game day from 46 to 49 when teams play Thursday night games.
Increase the size of practice squads from eight to 10 players.
Allow teams to make trades prior to the start of the league year, which typically begins with the start of free agency.
Allow any player who is placed on injured reserve to return after he has missed at least six weeks. Under the current by-laws, only one player can be designated for return and he has to be named as the designated player when he is initially placed on I.R. It would convert injured reserve into more of a disabled list like baseball has.
Let teams have up to 10 draft-eligible players at the same time in their facility to go through testing drills. As part of that process, it would allow any other team that wishes to have someone attend those drills to be allowed in another team's facility. The general distrust of organizations may keep this one from happening.
Most people think of the owners meetings as simply a chance for billionaires to congregate and discuss how much money they've made over the previous year. But from the looks of things, there will be a lot more than champagne flowing and golf outings being planned. There will actually be some important league business taking place and they're going to have a pretty full agenda.
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.