NFL Makes Some Rule Changes
PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — The coin toss was altered and the playoffs weren't touched. Hate forceouts? They're gone. Afraid of more looks by referees at instant replay. These might be worthwhile.
A busy NFL owners meetings ended Wednesday with a show of hands that made it obvious reseeding the playoffs wasn't such a good idea. So the league's competition committee withdrew the proposal Wednesday after an informal vote sent it "down in flames," according to New York Giants co-owner John Mara.
"The more we can keep tradition," said Patriots owner Robert Kraft, whose hand most decidedly did not go up in support of a wild-card team with a better record than a division winner getting a home game in the first playoff round. "There's something to be said about competition at the end of the season, but look at our game against the Giants. Tom Coughlin didn't hold back and we had something to play for.
"I do believe if you win a division, it's good for your fans to know you will have a home game. "To win a division, there is a reward and we wanted to keep that."
Competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, was not surprised about the lack of support for reseeding.
"This idea we wanted to push this year to get the discussion going," McKay said. "There were not a lot of hands up, so we withdrew the proposal for now.
"There is the historical idea that a division champion should have a home game."
The owners did pass several resolutions, including eliminating the forceout on receptions; allowing teams to defer their decision to the second half when winning the opening coin toss; and making field goals and extra points subject to replay review to determine whether the ball passes over the crossbar and through the uprights.
Reviewing field goals was a slam dunk for the owners after a kick by Cleveland's Phil Dawson to tie a game at Baltimore hit the support behind the crossbar, then came back onto the field. Officials got the call correct despite not being allowed to use replay. Now they can.
Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher said eliminating the forceout rule was approved unanimously and that it will help officiating. A receiver now must get two feet inbounds unless he actually is carried out of bounds by a defender after catching the ball.
Fisher also noted how strongly deferring the choice on the coin toss, currently the rule in college, was accepted 30-2.
"I was surprised by the support. We'll see how that goes," he said. "It now gives coaches a third option. After talking to a number of coaches, many prefer to start on offense. I think we may see (more) deferrals later in the year with weather considerations."
In addition, any direct snap from center that is untouched by the quarterback now will be a live ball; in the past it was considered a false start and the play was blown dead. The 5-yard penalty for incidental contact with a facemask has been eliminated, with the 15-yarder remaining for any grasping or twisting of the facemask.
On Tuesday, the owners approved a communication device in the helmet of one defensive player.
Goodell also was given a pledge by the owners to support his protection of the integrity of the game, something for which he has been praised in his 18 months in charge. The NFL's image has taken some hits with the Michael Vick and Pacman Jones situations and the Spygate scandal. Goodell acted swiftly in all those cases, impressing the league membership.
_Goodell reiterated he wants to meet with former Patriots employee Matt Walsh, who has indicated he has more information about the team taping opponents' signals. But Goodell added "at some point, I will run out of patience."
_McKay said the competition committee will look into scheduling more games between division opponents late in the season to combat the possibility of meaningless matchups.
_The committee will investigate what to do with the defensive player who has the communication device when that player also is on special teams. He suggested the device would be cut off during such plays.
_Goodell emphasized the owners' support for NFL Network and his optimism that the channel will wind up on the main tiers of the major cable outlets with which the league currently is feuding.