NFL owners meetings shaping change

The NFL owners meetings are setting up change for the future, redefining rules and hiring power brokers for discipline.

The NFL is well into the process of conducting its business at its annual owners meetings in Phoenix, which began Sunday and run through Wednesday when Roger Goodell gives the State of the NFL Address.

Several topics are under discussion at the meetings. Here are some of the highlights of the decisions that were made Monday as the owners mull the prospect of moving the game into the future.

  • As is the habit at the owners meetings, 32 compensatory picks, ranging from the end of the third round to the end of the draft, were awarded. A total of 14 teams got compensatory picks. The Vikings didn’t get any and almost surely won’t get any next year because the formula is based on helping teams that lost key free agents from the roster the previous year.

    Kansas City led the way with four picks – a third-rounder, two fifth-rounders and a seventh-round selection. Denver wasn’t far behind with four of their own – a fourth-, a sixth- and two seventh-round picks. Baltimore also cashed in with three picks, one in the fourth round and two in the fifth.

  • The owners voted to suspend the blackout policy for 2015, which doesn’t allow local affiliates to carry home games if the game isn’t sold out. The rules have been in place for more than 40 years, but even when the Vikings were very good in the middle to late 1970s, they needed help from Pillsbury Corp. in December games at Met Stadium to buy up tickets, a plan that remained in place after the Vikings moved into the Metrodome and hit franchise hard times. In recent years, teams like Jacksonville have had to eliminate seats or set a reduced percentage of seats to be sold to a lower number than capacity. Last September, the Federal Communications Commission came out against the NFL’s blackout policy and eliminated FCC reinforcement of the blackout policy.

  • Roger Goodell won’t be policing the league’s personal conduct. They may have got the hanging judge in Todd Jones, the former director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, as special counsel for handling potential violations of the personal conduct policy. A former U.S. Attorney for Minnesota and, prior to that, a Marine officer, one can only imagine Jones will take a dim view concerning conduct violations, including just about anything but tobacco. Lisa Friel was also named NFL special counsel for investigations. Friel earned her job by being a prosecutor in the New York District Attorney’s Sex Crimes Division. It would appear the NFL is toughening up its troops in terms of laying down sanctions on players.

  • The NFL won’t change the language of what constitutes a catch, commonly known as the Calvin Johnson Rule. The rule faced its stiffest challenge in the playoffs when a catch by Dez Bryant was overturned. The rule will basically remain the same with the exception of the removal of the two words that got the most attention when reviewing whether a catch was made or not – “football move.”

  • Patriots owner Robert Kraft gave indications that the Rams may have a harder time relocating to Los Angeles than they might think. Kraft, a powerful owner who holds a lot of sway at the owners meetings, told reporters that the league wants to get one team – and quite possibly two – to Los Angeles, but when asked specifically about St. Louis, he took on a different tone. Rams owner Stan Kroenke has refused to speak with state, county and city officials about the construction of a new stadium, but the state is moving on with the process – looking to extend the current bonds used to fund the Edward Jones Dome. Kraft said that if the Missouri/St. Louis power brokers step up to fund a new stadium, “I think we have a responsibility to make sure there’s a team in that market.”

  • Kraft also indicated that the playoffs won’t be expanded this year, but it could be coming soon – with Thursday night playoff games a distinct possibility.

  • Expansion of the current instant replay policy isn’t going to happen … or at least not with the blessing of the Competition Committee. The committee voted down proposals to expand the scope of reviewable plays. Historically, the league unanimously sides with recommendations from the Competition Committee.

  • On the Steelers’ team website, Art Rooney Jr. said that expansion of replay could push games to four hours long, which the league wants to avoid. He humorously shot down the Colts proposal for the potential nine-point play – a touchdown, two-point conversion and 50-yard extra point.

  • In one of the stranger proposals, discussion is taking place to play a Pro Bowl in Brazil. What? Your guess is as good as ours.

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