Owners of all 32 NFL franchises flocked to Chicago, IL for the league's annual spring meeting this week. Although there were rule changes made during meetings that took place in March, these meetings were to finalize solutions that were left unruled/ pending from the previous meetings in Phoenix earlier this year.
The league has done (for the most part) a satisfactory job at evaluating the game every year and making tweaks for the overall good of the game, at least more-so than the MLB, NHL and NBA's efforts.
So what rule changes were approved in the windy city?
Everything you need to know:
Rule: Overtime cut from 15 to 10 minutes
The Good: With increasing television timeouts and a constant stoppage on the game clock, NFL games can feel like they're dragging from Sunday to Sunday. Although minor, the rule change will potentially shorten games (even if by 5 minutes), and will force interesting decisions to be made in OT considering the shortened time.
The Bad: In all reality, the five minute change wont really change much. Player safety was cited as one of the main causes of this change, but in a game that is already long over the 60 minute mark, how can we say with a straight face this is a real benefit for players? Additionally, say a team takes 8 minutes and chews up the clock to only kick a field goal. If the league is aiming for "fairness" in competition, what's fair about getting the ball back with two minutes in overtime?
Final Verdict: This rule change will only effect the minority of football games, so it's impact will likely reach minor levels. However, if we're looking to improve overtime/player safety, there are much better ways to approach these issues.
Rule: The league is now loosening restrictions on player celebrations
The Good: The NFL, which has stood for the No Fun League as of late, took a greater step towards the entertainment aspect of the game by now allowing players to do pretty much anything, as long as it is not taunting nor vulgar. This will allow the characters of the league to come out and be true to themselves, while also increasing the fun and entertainment value for the fans. No weaponry or sexually provocative movements allowed.
The Bad: There's not really much that can be put into this section. This is mostly for the old-heads of football who favored Barry Sanders because he simply handed the ball to the referee. The only true bad that could come out of this rule is a player taking it to extremes, but we have yet to see this egregiousness in the league's history.
Final Verdict: This can only be seen as a Win/Win for everybody involved. We might not get back to the days of Joe Horn pulling out his cellphone or Terrell Owens with his sharpie, but the NFL saw a drop in ratings last season and needed to make changes. This is one that will bring people back to football.
Rule: Cutting roster sizes has moved to one day, will go from 90 man to 53 man.
The Good: Unless you follow the league intensely or keep up on Hard Knocks, this change won't mean very much to the common fan. This rule will now force teams to make cuts at the end of the preseason all at once, which is a major victory for players on the lower end of the totem pole trying to make rosters. This will allow these players more opportunities to show the coaches what they're able to do.
The Bad: This part is mostly on the coaching staff. Already a stressful facet of the preseason, this forces the staff to cut 37 players at one time as opposed to two separate days. Obviously, 37 talented players to cut is no easy decision. This will force some quick decisions and may prove to have roster consequences later in the season.
Final Verdict: Roster trimming used to go from a 90 man roster, to a 75 man roster, down to the standard 53. The new rule, which only grants one day to go from 90 to 53, is essentially for players trying to make rosters. Teams are typically trying to simply avoid injuries by the last week of the preseason, and by enforcing the new rule, will get a last chance to see these players in live action before making decisions.
Rule: Two players will now be allowed to be taken off injured reserve
The Good: Unfortunately, injuries will forever be a part of sports. Should a player suffer a major injury, their season was officially finished once they hit the injured reserve. In recent years, the league allowed one player to return from this designated list, and recently as last year eliminated the need to claim what player up front would be designated for return. Now, two players will be allowed to return from the Injured Reserve.
This again is a win for everybody. The players who are hurt now still have the possibility of returning to play, coaches are able to hold roster spots while they're gone and still welcome injured players back, and fans can have the possibility of watching the best players return.
The Bad: Again, not much to complain about on this side. The only possible downside is having a player rush back too early from injury and possibly risk further damage.
The Verdict: This new change can have big ripples later in the season, where a playoff team can gain an important piece to their puzzle. A true shame is watching great players end a season due to injury, and now with this addition, the possibilities of watching a comeback now takes a step closer to happening.
Other important notes from Tuesday:
Tampa Bay will now be the site for Super Bowl 55, which was originally supposed to be in Los Angeles. Rain in the LA area deterred construction and pushed the date back for the new stadium to be ready. Tampa, which was originally the runner up to Los Angeles, has 90 days (August 25th) to solidify requirements.
A proposal to allow coaches who are currently in the playoffs to work out agreements for other teams has currently been tabled. This means that coaches who are still currently with their team during a playoff run must wait until they are eliminated to negotiate.
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