Aaron Doster/USA Today Sports

NFL proposes 15 rules changes

NFL owners will consider 15 different changes to the rules next week, some proposed by teams and some proposed by the Competition Committee and one that changes who makes the final call on replays.

Next week, 15 items come before NFL owners to make changes in the laws that govern the NFL. Some are controversial. Some are stupid. Some are intriguing. Some are housecleaning items to sanitize language.

In all, the owners will face 15 potential rules changes – seven from teams (four proposed changes by Philadelphia alone) and eight from the Competition Committee. 

The difference in the legal propriety of changing the league Constitution requires rationale. Some have them. Some don’t. The seven “outside” proposals will have to face a potentially contentious vetting process. The eight “inside” proposals likely have a better chance of being approved.

Here are the 15 proposals:


Proposal No. 1 (by Philadelphia Eagles) – Give additional protection to long snappers on kick plays.


The Skinny: In a further attempt to protect long snappers in addition to the rules in place not to allow defenders to line up directly over the snapper on punts, field goals and extra points, the proposal would not allow defensive players to touch a long snapper until one full second after the snap. Most kicks are gone by then, but it seems clear the impetus is tied into Proposal 2, which clearly involves long snappers.

Proposal No. 2 (by Philadelphia) – Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goals and extra points.

The Skinny: Pretty simple. The coolest allowable play in football would be eliminated.

Proposal No. 3 (by Philadelphia) – Expands the definition of the “crown of the helmet” foul to include the “hairline” part of the helmet.

The Skinny: Basically would change the call to a facemask-to-facemask hit. This call is difficult enough to make when an offensive player ducks his head. Adding another layer is likely to make any contact between helmets a penalty no matter who leads with the head. Given the post-concussion acceptance protocol, this should pass.

Proposal No. 4 (by Philadelphia) – Amends the challenge system by granting a third challenge if a club is successful on at least one of its two initial challenges and expands reviewable plays outside of two minutes of each half.

The Skinny: Relatively straightforward … or so it would seem. The refs have to be right twice on challenged calls for you to run out of challenges and the timeouts you lose with them. But the actual request strikes out the language of two of the five legalese articles of the rule itself – everything related to the listing of what currently qualifies as a non-reviewable play. This is the salmon proposal – swimming upstream and dying after laying an egg.

Proposal No. 5 (by Washington Redskins) – Eliminates a limit of three total challenges per team per game and eliminates the requirement that a team be successful on each of its first two challenges in order to be awarded a third challenge.

The Skinny: Everyone in the NFL should love, Love, LOVE this one. But, the strikeout language is the elephant in the room. It allows challenge flags to be thrown as many times as the officiating crew can take a cinder block beating to the head for relative ineptitude. Owners may vote for it. Officiating crews see a storm on the horizon. 

Proposal No. 6 (by Washington) – Moves the line of scrimmage to the 20-yard line for any touchback where the free kick goes through the uprights.

The Skinny: Daniel Snyder thinks he’s the smartest guy in the room. Somewhere Al Davis is laughing.

Proposal No. 7 (jointly by the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks) – Permits a coach to challenge any official’s decision except scoring plays and turnovers.

The Skinny: The strikeouts not only allow up to six upheld challenges say you win four times, you potentially have 10 challenges. It allows them to happen technically in the last two minutes and overtime. Hard to imagine owners having enough votes to pass this one.


Proposal No. 8 – Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player that is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.


The Skinny: Now we’re in NFL lawyer country. No strikeouts. Nothing but additions. The reason given for this in-house vote: “the integrity of the game.” Let’s count the “no” votes on a shop teacher’s bad hand.

Proposal No. 9 – Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.

The Skinny: The Competition Committee smelled something fishy going on with the rarely enforced “let’s give a 70-yard field goal a shot” interpretation of the free kick. It’s too convoluted to be fully vetted, but the change makes it’s a touchback. This won’t be a CBA bridge to die on.

Proposal No. 10 – Reduces the length of preseason and regular season overtime periods to 10 minutes.

The Skinny: Overtime in the preseason is ridiculous. Overtime in games that count are sacred. According to Donovan McNabb, they go to infinity and beyond. This should get shot down because a fifth period in football should remain the same as the first four. Your rating goes up in overtime, not down. Slice down playing time until you get to, by your legal terminology, “sudden death.” This one makes no sense clumped together. When records don’t matter, nobody will care. When wins, losses and ties make or break seasons, don’t shortchange your talent.

Proposal No. 11 – Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection.

The Skinny: Make your own call. The only change is the added language, “A receiver running a pass route. If the receiver becomes a blocker or assumes a blocking posture, he is no longer a defenseless player.” Zimmer endorsed. Belichick approved.

Proposal No. 12 – Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is no more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

The Skinny: A reputable law firm is required to analyze this one. Ten words were added. Fourteen were removed. Above our paygrade.

Proposal No. 13 – Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating Department to make the final decision on replay reviews.

The Skinny: A short rule completely overhauled. It takes the power of replay out of the hands of the referee and into that of the home office. The previous language and the proposed language of this one are shockingly dissimilar. Proposition 13 is a biggie.

Proposal No. 14 – Makes it an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.

The Skinny: We could have told the NFL this one years ago. For whatever reason, an offensive pre-snap infraction, even a false start, outside of the five-minute clock stoppage results in the clock to start rolling. A team up by 17 could potentially have three or four false starts to give the offense a first-and-30, but roll two minutes off the clock. Not so fast, my friend. This one passes unanimously by those unaware Pandora’s Box had been opened. 

Proposal No. 15 – Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

The Skinny: Why they had the rule for just an arbitrary one minute as opposed to when the game stops for commercial interruption is a gaffe that the lawyers involved should already be hanging their heads in shame.

We have 15 changes to how the new sheriffs and the old gunslingers find ways to circumvent the rules laid in front of them. Some will pass – a higher likelihood of the owner-friendly presentations. Others will fail – and rightly so. 

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