NFL rules changes under consideration

NFL owners begin their annual meetings this weekend and will consider a few new rules being proposed. Some deal with overtime and others deal with player safety.

The NFL owners will conduct their annual meetings starting tomorrow and running through Wednesday in Orlando. While the labor negotiations will be a front-burner topic of discussion for much of the meetings, there are several items to watch for as the league meets.

One potential rules change that has received a lot of traction in the last two months is changing the rules for overtime in the playoffs, although there has yet to be a big groundswell of support to add it to regular-season games. The rule proposed by the competition committee would allow the team that didn't get the opening kickoff of overtime a chance with the ball if the team that won the toss kicks a field goal. If the team that wins the toss scores a touchdown, the game would be over. Many believe that the Vikings-Saints game will provide extra impetus to get the rule changed. It has been brought to a vote in recent years to change this rule, but 18 votes are the most it has received. To change a rule, 24 votes (75 percent) is needed.

Another issue that will get a lot of discussion is player safety. Over just the last year or two, the impact – both short-term and long-term – of players sustaining concussions or serious injuries when defenseless has come to the forefront. One proposed rules change deals with defenseless receivers. It would call for a 15-yard personal foul to any defensive player who leaves the ground to lay a big hit on a receiver who hasn't had time to protect himself from a big impact.

Another safety-related issue will be to follow the rules of college football when a player loses his helmet. Because of the violence of the NFL, players who lose a helmet during a play are much more susceptible to serious injury. A proposal would call for a play to be blown dead when a ball carrier loses his helmet.

Other proposals include the potential of changing numbers for defensive players in 3-4 schemes to more easily identify players that are linebackers (which typically have numbers in the 50s) from defensive ends (which typically have numbers in the 90s). Another would call for a 10-second runoff in the final minute of a half or a game if a replay review overturns the call on the field if the play would have resulted in the clock still running.

The owners meetings are always the source of some news, some changes and potentially some controversy. While the focus will be largely on the pending storm clouds of a work stoppage in 2011, there will be a lot of topics on the agenda other than what will happen a year or more from now.

SATURDAY NOTES

  • The first restricted free agents are starting get offer sheets and the Eagles made the first signing official by saying they won't match the Tennessee Titans offer to defensive end Jason Babin, which kicks in the offer sheet he signed. The Eagles are expected to get running back Mike Bell in the coming days, as the Saints aren't expected to match the offer sheet Bell signed with the Eagles earlier this week.

  • The rival UFL, which ran its inaugural season this year, is trying to talk the NFL into investing in their league. The current proposal would allow the NFL to buy a 30 percent share of the league, but it isn't expected to be on the owners' meeting agenda in the coming week.

  • Rumors out of Pittsburgh are that former Vikings defensive coordinator and current Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin is going to get a contract extension that could happen as quickly as the next week or so, but almost surely will get done before the start of training camp. The Steelers are notorious for holding on to coaches for extended periods of time. The team has had just three coaches since 1969 – Chuck Noll, Bill Cowher and Tomlin.

  • The Eagles may not be in the market for Vikings restricted free agent Ray Edwards after all. Earlier this week, the Eagles traded a fourth-round draft pick to Seattle for DE Darryl Tapp, who given a three-year contract extension worth $9 million. While it doesn't end the chase for a DE in the Eagles front four, Tapp said he believes he can be an every-down end in the Eagles defense, which is what Philly said it was looking for when rumors began that the team had an interest in Edwards.


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