The NFL owners are meeting this week in Atlanta, discussing several items, to include some rule chaneg proposals. These changes are primarily the by-law adjustments that were discussed during the league meetings in March, but tabled until these meetings. Included in the proposals were the movement of the trade deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8, allowing one player per team to return from injured reserve later in the seasons, and making thigh and knee pads mandatory for all players.
All three of those proposals passed follwing an owners vote. According to the Associated Press:
The owners also voted to move the training deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8, and to allow one "marquee" player placed on injured reserve to return to practice after the sixth game and to the lineup after the eighth game. That player must be on the 53-man roster after the final preseason cut.
All of these rule changes had been recommended by the NFL's Competion Committee heading into the March owners meeting.
The move of the trade deadline should have been an easy one to pass. The Week 6 deadline was too early in the season for player moves to happen. After Week 6, even teams sitting at 2-3 or 2-4 could still consider themselves in playoff contention, where as after Week 8, more teams would realize they are not going to compete this year, and could go into a selling mode to stock up on youth or draft picks by shipping away veterans.
The IR rule was another one that should have been an easy pass. Essentially, a player who is injured before Week 2 of the season could be placed on injured reserve and named the team's "marquee" player, freeing him to return to the team in the middle of the season, without wasting a roster spot during the weeks he isn't available.
Finally the pads rule really has no bearing on the game itself, but should assist with injury prevention.
You can follow all of the 2012 NFL Rule Changes, and any other owners meeting activities, at SBNation.com.