Replay gets a review; other rules changes

NFL officials visited Vikings training camp last week and outlined some of the changes being put in place for 2014.

When the Minnesota Vikings open their preseason Friday night against the Oakland Raiders, there will some new rules and a few points of emphasis that officials visiting training camp last week emphasized.

The most obvious of those to fans is one that will be an experiment for the first two preseason games only, where extra point attempts will be spotted at the 15-yard line, resulting in about a 33-yard range for those. The idea behind it, according to an explanation on a video produced by the league is to make that play “more competitive.”

The last two seasons, Vikings kicker Blair Walsh has connected on 20 of 21 field goal attempts between 30 and 39 yards, with his only miss being blocked in a Nov. 25, 2012 game at Chicago.

That rule change won’t be implemented during the 2014 regular season, and teams can still attempt a two-point conversion with the ball spotted at the 2-yard line.


A few rules will change for the regular season, including a alteration in blocking rules, timing of the game after a sack, instant replay and tighter restrictions on language.

  • The current prohibition on offensive blockers rolling up on the back of the legs of a defender has been extended to include the side of the legs. Rolling up a defender’s legs from the side or back will be a 15-yard clipping penalty.

  • The game clock will stay running after a sack outside of 2 minutes. Previously, officials stopped the clock to spot the ball.

  • The way instant replay is handled will change. The referee will consult with senior members of the officiating department in New York and loose balls will be reviewable, with “indisputable visual evidence” needed of a recovery.

    “The whole idea with New York is to streamline the process, to make sure that the replay officials are looking at the most effective angles right off the bat,” referee Carl Cheffers said. “… Replay, there is a high expectation that we’re going to get the play right. There is a lot of pressure from the owners and competition committee to make sure that we keep the game played in a certain time limit and replay is one of those big variables where if we can cut a few seconds off a replay and get the desired result, that’s a win-win.”

  • Officials are also being asked to monitor language on the field. “Abusive, threatening of insulting language directed at opponents, teammates, officials or league members” will be 15-yard penalty and additional discipline could follow. Officials will be listening for racial slurs, comments about sexual orientation or other verbal abuse.

    There will be “zero tolerance” for unsportsmanlike conduct, said Dean Blandino, the NFL vice president of officiating.

    “You guys all work at a company and I worked at a company and we don’t talk like that at my company and I’m sure you don’t talk like that at your company. The NFL is a big company and this is a workplace and the field is my workplace. It’s our workplace; it’s your workplace because you guys are down there, too,” Cheffers said. “It’s players, coaches, game administrators, it’s our workplace. So I think what the NFL is saying is that we’re a multi-billion-dollar brand and we have a workplace that we need to clean up, be more professional.

    “It’s not one word that we’re looking for; it’s just overall respect for each other and appropriate language for a work environment. We understand it’s a game of intimidation, but there are other ways to intimidate your opponent other than language. We don’t want to throw a foul for this kind of stuff. We’re going to work hard to remind them that we’re working toward a professional environment. But at the same token, if it gets out of hand we have the ability to penalize it and we’ll be supported by the office.”

  • Player will also be assessed an unsportsmanlike penalty for using the ball, pylon, crossbar or other object as a prop.


    Officials have also been asked to watch for certain “points of emphasis” this year.

  • Defenders can’t initiate contact with an eligible receiver past five yards if the quarterback is in the pocket with the ball. If the defender has position, he can defend himself against a receiver running into him. Receivers can’t push off to gain space on a defender, but they can use their arms to ward off contact initiated by the defender

    “The defender is entitled to his space, but if we see the defender move into the route that the receiver is running and there’s contact, that’s potentially illegal contact,” back judge Laird Hayes said.

  • Defensive holding will be called for any grabbing of the jersey, whether or not the official deems the grab impeded or restricted the receiver.

    “The tug of the jersey, they told us at the clinic they want us to call that every single time,” Hayes said. “If the quarterback is handing off or the quarterback is running the other way, don’t call it. But if it’s a pass play and that receiver is running out there and the defender grabs the jersey … they want it called.”

  • In clarifying illegal hands to the face in close line play, a foul will now be called if “direct and forceable contact” is made to head, neck or face area, regardless if it pins the head back or is prolonged.

  • Offensive players can’t simulate a snap, regardless if the action causes the defense to jump offside or not.

  • All players must wear thigh and knee pads, including pregame warmups. A 5-yard penalty will be called if they are in violation of that after a warning and a repeat violation is disqualification.

  • Defenseless players can’t be contacted in the head and neck area and players can’t use the crown of their helmet to initiate contact anywhere on the opposing player.

    Tim Yotter is the publisher of 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.

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