Rule modifications to be examined at NFL annual meetings
While teams around the NFL will push for rules modifications this week, the league will be examining the so-called "push play" itself.
It's at the three-day annual meetings that the NFL considers tweaks to its rules and regulations, some proposed by teams and others by the competition committee.
This year's agenda includes heightened scrutiny on the push play, used so effectively by the Philadelphia Eagles last season. Often, it's a sneak in short-yardage situations, with a pair of players immediately behind the quarterback, each poised to push on his backside as soon as the ball is snapped.
While the league is looking at the play, it doesn't mean a rules change is in the works. Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said on a conference call last week that there's no indication the play has led to more injuries and that there's no consensus about changing the rule, which would require a three-quarters majority vote of the 32 teams.
"I do think it's something we'll look at and continue to study if that changes," said McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "There are certainly not 24 people that think it should be changed."
Among the changes for the 2023 season are the league's Sunday Ticket deal with YouTube, flexible scheduling for "Monday Night Football," and the first Black Friday game on Amazon Prime, which will be available to all fans, not just subscribers.
The league also will consider adding a flex option for "Thursday Night Football," which wouldn't happen in the upcoming season but would make for better Amazon games down the road. Commissioner Roger Goodell mentioned that possibility in his Super Bowl news conference.
There are nine potential rules changes proposed by teams. The Rams have proposed making roughing-the-passer penalties reviewable. The Chargers want the adjustment of the play clock following an instant-replay review to be consistent with other timing rules.
The Eagles have proposed making "0" a legal jersey number and a more radical idea: giving teams an alternative to an onside kick after a score, affording them a fourth-and-20 play from their own 20-yard line.
The Detroit Lions propose allowing coaches to challenge personal fouls and to provide teams more opportunities for a third challenge.
The New York Jets want to expand the prohibition of "crack-back" blocks to include players who go in motion and go beyond the center to block a defender below the waist.
The competition committee has several rules proposals, including:
— Making tripping a personal foul.
— Make the penalty for handing the ball forward consistent with other illegal acts, such as illegal forward passes.
— To put the ball in play at the receiving team's 25-yard line when a touchback results from a punt — and the same if there's a fair catch on a free kick behind the receiving team's 25.
The competition committee also is advocating for more joint practices at training camps, when two franchises get together to work out and scrimmage. The rationale for that is that it not only benefits officials who work those sessions but helps starters — who might not see action in preseason games — avoid injuries early in the season by getting reps that are close to full speed.
A big emphasis with the NFL this season will be getting more consistency from the 17 officiating crews, so that there is less variety in the way games are called.
The competition committee is scrutinizing the "hip-drop" tackle, a pull-down from behind that led to a broken leg for Dallas running back Tony Pollard and an ankle injury to Kansas City quarterback Patrick Mahomes.
The hip-drop is similar to a horse-collar tackle, banned by the league several years ago.
"I think the challenge that we have is how do you define it, what is the true prevalence of it and how do you get it out of the game," McKay said.