Finally a meeting where football was discussed has ended in a quick decision.
Earlier this morning at their annual spring meetings the league’s owners unanimously passed three rule changes for next season, each designed to provide further protection for defenseless players. With James Harrison’s week of mayhem in Cleveland still relatively fresh in the league’s memory, being proactive to prevent head injuries is still a priority.
As Albert Breer of the NFL Network reports, the first change expands the definition of a defenseless receiver and widens the reach of unnecessary contact rules. Players who have “not clearly become a runner” will now be protected and treated as a defenseless player, which includes wide receivers, a quarterback following a change in possession, and a kicker or punter during a return.
Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons president and co-chairman of the league’s competition committee, explained the change by saying that previously receivers were only protected during the act of completing a catch. Ideally the change will also prevent defensive players from launching themselves and leading high with their helmets first.
“This will give a receiver protection until he becomes a runner and has the opportunity to defend himself,” McKay told Breer. “We saw too many helmet-to-helmet or shoulder-to-helmet hits where the receiver has just caught the ball and has two feet on the ground and has not had a chance to protect himself.”
The second rule deals more specifically with launching, addressing players who either leave their feet prior to contact and “spring forward and upward,” and players who “use any part of their helmet.”
Lastly, the league fought the painful trend that has seen every quarterback who gets grazed with a pinky finger fall down and look to the nearest referee, gesturing wildly with his arms. Now instead mere touching after the ball has been released being grounds for an automatic flag, officials will have the ability to rule that a quarterback was accidentally grazed. Ideally this will cut down on the Italian soccer-style diving.
Now I invite you all to complain about the league getting soft, and maybe we’ll write another long editorial in which we reference Bill O’Reilly. Hey, complaining about how football is played is much better than complaining about football not being played at all, right?