Every year, NFL league owners gather to discuss the state of the business. This year, your hard earned ticket money puts them up at a ritzy hotel in Orange County. One of the main items on the agenda will be proposed rules changes. The Competition Committee, whose charter is to oversee competition and suggest rules changes, will be presenting their thoughts to the owners. There are seven proposals in all and, not suprisingly, two of those proposals are targetted at the sometimes over-the-top hits and blocks dished out by Pittsburgh (if you sensed a small rant coming, you were right). I have nothing against a good hit. Heck, this is a game built on violence, a game of men knocking other men to the ground. For a very long time, I've heard the excuse that you need to have your head on a swivel, that you need to be paying attention. Horsepucky. There's a crapload going on and if every player is supposed to keep track of every other opposing player, how is he supposed to do his primary job? Here's a summary of some of the bigger changes:
- No contact to the head area of a defenseless player - We all remember the hit. Wes Welker, who was nowhere near the ball and was defenseless, was plastered by Steelers safety Ryan Clark. Clark didn't use his helmet, but launched himself into Welker with shoulder and forearm, unnecessarily turning Welker into part of the turf. In essence, the receiver can't be hit if he's about to catch the ball.
- Draft slots 21-32 filled by playoff teams - Draft order is now calculated by regular season records, but this proposal would have the playoff teams drafting in forst round slots 21-32 in the order they exited the playoffs. That is, exit early and you get a higher pick. This directly affects the Patriots as they currently pick 23rd and are behind three teams who made the playoffs, but had worse regular season records; because their regular season records were junk, they have higher picks.
- Incomplete pass, called as fumble, should be reviewable - The now infamous Ed Hochuli flub up in Broncos vs. Charters where the ball slipped out of Cutler's hand, was recovered by SD, and subsequently ruled an incomplete pass by Hochuli. The Broncos went on to score a TD and grab a two point conversion to win the game. The play was later declared a mistake. Not a big deal? Both SD and Denver ended up 8-8 in the AFC West. Had Denver won one more divisional game, their division and conference records would've been tied and a tie breaking mess would've ensued to determine the division champion.
- Helmet-to-helmet blindside blocks penalized - Poor Hines Ward. One of his most infamous tactics, laying wood on a defensive player doing his job by watching how the play progresses, will be illegal. But Hines isn't the only Steeler to use this cheap tactic. WR Limas Sweed hammered Ravens Corey Ivy while he was trying to make a tackle. That hit put Ivy out of the game. Sweed must've been PO'd as minutes earlier, he dropped an easy TD catch. There is simply no need to take a guy out of a game when making a block. That hit was simply to blow up Ivy.
These seem like good rules changes, designed to keep the game somewhat safer. Again, I'm no priss and don't propose these guys walk around in tights and a tutu, but enough is enough.
There are a few other proposed changes which you can check out at the Boston Globe.