With all the talk about the Saints’ bounty system and the Redskins-Cowboys cap penalties, it’s easy to lose sight of the primary purpose of the league meetings in March.
The owners will consider proposed rule changes, the unveiling of which was widely overlooked last Wednesday afternoon as we were all processing Sean Payton’s one-year banishment from the Bayou and Tim Tebow’s exodus to New York.
MDS summarized the proposals, virtually in real time. (He did such a good job that at least one newspaper in an NFL city copied and pasted the entire thing, word for word, and put someone else’s name at the bottom.)
Here are the most important possible revisions to the rule book.
1. The Steelers have proposed that the overtime rule used in the postseason be applied to the regular season. (It’s a move that was expected in May 2010, after the new postseason overtime rule was promulgated. The Competition Committee will share its position on the proposal when it is presented to the owners. Though many coaches were opposed to the change in the overtime rules, they also believe that the same rules should apply to both the regular season and the playoffs.)
2. The Bills have proposed that the replay process by confined to the replay booth. (This one makes too much sense to pass; the on-field dog-and-pony show consumes too much time. Again, the Competition Committee will share its views when presenting the proposed rule to the owners.)
3. The Competition Committee has proposed that turnovers would be subject to automatic review, joining scoring plays and all plays in the final two minutes of either half. (The opposite would not be true — a potential interception that is called an incomplete pass on the field would be reviewed only via coach’s challenge, or if it happens in the final two minutes of either half.)
4. The Competition Committee has proposed a mild tweaking the rule regarding too many men on the field for the defensive team. (This revision comes directly in response to the play from the final drive of Super Bowl XLVI, in which the Giants unwittingly revealed a loophole that would allow the defense to deliberately use an extra player, sacrificing five yards of meaningless field position and allowing precious seconds to evaporate from the clock.)
5. The Competition Committee has proposed moving the trade deadline from the Tuesday after Week Six until the Tuesday after Week Eight. (This long-overdue adjustment adjusts the balance between allowing teams to buy and sell players against discouraging fire sales and/or efforts to load up unfairly for a postseason run.)
6. The Competition Committee has proposed expanding the preseason roster to 90 players, up from 80. (This would give teams more bodies for training camp and preseason games. With the initial cut after Week Three of the preseason entailing a drop to 80, it means that the final cuts would put up to 864 players on the market in one fell swoop on Labor Day Weekend.)
7. The Competition Committee has proposed adjusting the injured reserve rules to allow players to return in the same season. (The current rule shuts the player down for the entire year, in order to discourage stockpiling players who may not be hurt. For players who truly have a short-term injury but whose skills don’t command holding a roster spot for part of the season, it’s unrealistic to shut them down for the full season.)
So amid all the natural drama arising from these meetings, be prepared to hear some news about whether these proposed changes are made.