The NFL's annual spring Owners Meeting begins today in Phoenix, Arizona. On hand for every team are their owners, general managers, and coaches, looking to not only continue the momentum of free agency, but work through some proposed rule changes for the upcoming season.
The first change is the elimination of the infamous "tuck" rule. Originally introduced into the NFL rulebook in 1999, the tuck rule gained notoriety in 2001 when an apparent fumble in the AFC playoffs was ruled an interception, with the turnover taken away from the Oakland Raiders and the New England Patriots retaining the ball.
Essentially, the rule said that, if a quarterback is tucking the ball away after preparing to throw a pass, even if the ball is dropped or stripped, it is considered an incomplete pass, even though the quarterback's arm does not appear to be moving forward, and it looks exactly like a fumble. The Patriots won that playoff game, and, eventually the Super Bowl. Without the tuck rule, the Raiders would have likely won that game.
If the rule change goes through, a quarterback bringing the ball down from his throwing motion will be ruled to have fumbled the ball. If his arm is moving forward in a throwing motion, that will be an incomplete pass.
The second major rule change to be considered this week involves a ball carried. For the last few years, defensive players have been penalized for using the helmets to make a tackle, while offensive ball carriers have routinely lowered their heads and rammed through would-be-tacklers. According to the proposed rule, that would now be a 15-year penalty, so long as the ball carrier is outside the tackle box.
However, how the rule will be adjudicated is going to be interesting. Dropping your head and preparing to receive a hit is an instinct. Can the NFL penalize a player for trying to protect himself as a defender comes in to hit him?
What about as a running back lowers his shoulder to run through someone? If his head hits the defender first, is that a penalty? Since a player on defense gets penalized if he tries to hit someone with his shoulder, but strikes with the helmet first, then it seems fair to make the offensive player receive the same penalty if he initiates contact with his helmet.
But, does "seems fair" mean the rule should be in place? Probably not. It'a going to be incredible hard to say a ball carrier initiated contact with a defender with his helmet, when the defender is flying toward him, and the ball carrier is trying to evade. It seems like we will end up with way more 15-yard penalties in every game, simply through normal play.
The proposed rule change for running backs might be the most absurd suggestion of a rule change I've ever heard of.— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
In order to lower ur shoulder u obviously have to lower ur head. It's a way of protecting ur self from a tackler and a way to break tackles— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
U can't change the instinctive nature of running the football.— Matt Forte (@MattForte22) March 17, 2013
Hall of Fame running back Marshall Faulk has also let his thoughts be known:
The new RB rule is a joke. #competitioncommittee— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) March 18, 2013
A RB can't lead with his helmet. A lot of chins are about to get busted.— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) March 18, 2013
The chop block is illegal but a RB can have a defender on his back and get hit in the knees.— Marshall Faulk (@marshallfaulk) March 18, 2013
However, the fact that the league is calling this a "safety issue," so we will likely see it pass.
Other issues, such as a change to the number of playoff teams and possibly changing the offseason calendar, could be discussed this week, but will likely not receive a vote. The owners will again meet in May, after the NFL draft, when more issues could be discussed, as well as the hosts for Super Bowl L and LI will be decided.