League approves changes to protect defenseless players, expand launching rules


If only progress in the labor dispute were this easy.

NFL owners quickly approved three rule changes Tuesday morning at the spring owner’s meetings, according to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. The moves are designed to protect defenseless players.

The first change expanded the definition of a defenseless receiver and player.

Now protected in the defenseless player rule include players not “clearly a runner yet” (wide receivers), kickers and punters during returns, and quarterbacks after change of possession.

Albert Breer of NFL Network writes that the league also expanded rules against launching (as expected) and they clarified a rule about “grazing” a quarterback.   (We assume this is in relation to helmet contact, but we’ll find out more.)

The expansion of the launching rules prohibits any use of the helmet, in addition to a player leaving feet prior to contact to spring forward into an opponent.

All three measures passed by a 32-0 margin.

UPDATE: Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe writes quarterback rule clarifies that only “forcible blows” to the head of the quarterback will be penalized, rather than just any contact at all. A rule defensive players will like!

45 responses to “League approves changes to protect defenseless players, expand launching rules

  1. I think we ought just put put players in dresses and let them cheer lead….Oh wait they can launch cheer leaders.

  2. Are they calling it the James Harrison rules…??? And Deb, before you tell me you came out of an Crimson Tide Womb, went to Mizzou, been a Steeler fan since who knows when, and are praying for those affected by disaster, yes, you’re diatribes are predictible…I assume if they bought Head an Shoulders, not of this would even be in the forefront……….Right?

  3. This is a good way for the NFL to bolster there network contracts next time around. Why? Because by passing these rule changes we have just added 15 minutes to every game. Hey, more commercial slots… I agree protecting players is very important.. It’s also a sneaky way for the NFL to get more $’s… Especially with more instant replay as well. Just a thought.

  4. This is absurd. I think the reasons have been stated by everyone already but “pussification” comes to mind.

  5. Damn, slave master owners trying to suppress and ruin the working man player’s game.

    De Smith’s little bowler hat is going to shoot into the air on top of a jet of steam when he reads this news…

  6. They will need to clarify the launching rule…like on goal line when a runner launches himself over the goal pile ( or 3rd, 4th and short) (ala Walter Peyton) and defenders launch over the pile to stop them….would be a shame to penalize a defender for that.

  7. “a player leaving feet prior to contact to spring forward into an opponent”

    Does this apply to Polamalu when he launches himself over the pile in short yardage situations?

  8. Grazing the qb’s helmet isn’t a flag anymore? I expect Crybaby Brady to retire immediately.

  9. Good thing about that idiotic “grazing” crap, it was getting to the point they about had to dust a QB’s helmet for fingerprints to prove a defender’s pinky touched it and he needed to be penalized for it. Preposterous. They need to get back to playing some real man’s ball.

  10. “Now protected in the defenseless player rule include players not “clearly a runner yet” (wide receivers), kickers and punters during returns, and quarterbacks after change of possession.”

    Does this mean that the above mentioned players can no longer be blocked but must be left free to tackle the returner/interceptor? If so, is a really stupid rule.

  11. The grazing rule will only apply to everyone except Manning and Brady. If you look at them the wrong way you will be penalized.

  12. This is what I don’t understand. The owner makes rules that will protect the players’ and help safety long term (not saying they are doing this out of the kindness of their heart but because they have to not to get sued. Then you have players like Harrison speaking out against how the game has changed so much that is isn’t fair anymore. Now you have a lock out and the player are crying foul because the owner aren’t doing enough to protect them. The owner might not sincerely care about the health of the players, but the do enough to keep themselves out of trouble with congress. Why can’t the owners let the players have a rep on this board so De can’t turn things around to say the players aren’t being represented fairly. It would be a starting point for possible negotiations, wouldn’t it?

  13. So players aren’t allowed to dive to make a tackle anymore? They’re leaving their feet prior to making contact…

    How about you stop trying to over-complicate it and just say there’s no more launching, you don’t need to define it. You know what launching is when you see it.

  14. Sounds like the rule is not to discourage blocking the players but to penalize players that go head-hunting when the ball changes hands. Everyone has seen the kicker or QB shepherding a player toward the sideline get lit up by a safety or LB looking to level someone. Might take a bit to get used to but if it means prolonging the careers of some great players, QBs or otherwise, I’m ok with it

  15. The expansion of the launching rules prohibits any use of the helmet, in addition to a player leaving feet prior to contact to spring forward into an opponent.

    I guess when you chase a player 50 yards and finally dive to try to stop them on s shoestring tackle (leaving your feet prior to the contact to spring yourself foward into an opponent), they will tack on the penatly yardard because you left your feet before you made contact!! Awesome..let them cancel the season if they are going to wussify the league this much. This way college football can go ahead and make the decision to play on Sunday’s.

  16. this is the one thing I vehemently disagree with the owners and goodell on…they are turning this sport into flag football….

  17. Why is no one talking about the quarterbacks becoming defenseless after a change of possession? Is no one allowed to touch them when they try to tackle the guy who just picked them off? I hope the actual rule is worded to avoid something like that.

  18. This is so very simple for the owners to correct. Turn your sight to rugby (union) and see the rule of tackling:

    1) You have to attempt to stop the ballcarrier by stretching your arms and then hit with your shoulder. Launching with your head or shoulder without attempting to use your arms to wrap-up the ball carrier is a penalty.

    2) You can’t tackle above the chest, the proper tackle form should be from the waist down. Attempting to tackle a ball carrier “high” can and will be subject to a penalization.

    Proper tackling nowadays is rare, moreso from the guys in defensive backfield. You see guys trying to blow the head off the ballcarrier, wrap-up tackles are nowhere to be seen and it’s very dangerous in a league that has decided to enforce the passging game.

  19. if were gonna slam goodell for the bad rules (which i do) he must recieve credit when he fixes a problem

    and i credit goodell for removin the skirts off QBs..good job

  20. manhorse69 says:May 24, 2011 11:05 AM

    Maybe James Harrison will really retire now. His feet are almost never on the ground when he makes a tackle.
    Unfortunatly he will just whine like a 2 year old again, blame it on his coaches again , and take training camp (lockout pending) off (with the blessing of his supposid head coach) to sulk.

  21. @jw731 …

    Oh darlin’, how flattering that you care enough to memorize my posts. By contrast, I don’t know or care what team you follow. The only thing I know about you is your preoccupation with me.

    And I’ve only posted my allegiance history because dimwits like you keep questioning my “right” to comment on Bama, Pittsburgh, and Mizzou. If they didn’t keep asking the questions, I wouldn’t keep answering them. 🙄

  22. thephantomstranger says:
    May 24, 2011 11:24 AM
    Mike McCarthy was upset because he thought they banned “lunching,” but then he was relieved to see that “grazing” is still allowed.


    Uh, ha ha ha, I get it. Because Coach McCarthy is slightly overweight. Is that all you got? Fat jokes? Sorry, he’s a little busy planning the parade routes for the Super Bowl victrories, so he doesn’t have as much time to work out like your vikes coaches…

  23. Gregg, you said the defenseless player rule now includes “quarterbacks after change of possession.”

    So if the defense intercepts or recovers a fumble and is able to advance the ball, then the QB automatically is considered defenseless and cannot be touched? What if the QB is attempting to tackle the ball carrier?

    When Ngata slammed his hand into Roethlisberger’s facemask, breaking his nose, would that have qualified as “grazing” the quarterback? Will someone explain that to the officials?

  24. airraid77 says:

    this is the one thing I vehemently disagree with the owners and goodell on…they are turning this sport into flag football….

    This is the one thing I agree with you on.

  25. These are actually solid rules.

    The launching rule doesn’t preclude any player from making a tackle – it means if a reciever is up in teh air, you don’t launch yourself into him like a spear.

    Its a huge different, and doesn’t change the game.

    Example: Ray Lewis rarely launches. he’s just runs through you. And you notice, Ray doesn’t end up injuring many players. They are clean hits.

    Conversely, James Harrison CONSTANTLY uses poor tackling technique and just launches himself like a human missle, and he’s injuring players left and right.

    one is a 1st ballot HOF’er. The other isn’t.

    Launching rule shoudn’t affect the game. Just make tackles like you’re supposed to, like you’re taught in Pee Wee and High School.

  26. Deb,

    I love you, thanks for clarifying JW731 posts….because I was like WTH is he talking about. Obviously needs a better life or hell needs to get a life. I have never seen a reasonable post from the clown.

    Go Steelers!

  27. @steel086 …

    Thank you! My comments usually address the article topic and until I read that bizarre rant, I was going to ask for clarification on the QB’s defenseless status after a turnover. The college boards have had ongoing coverage of the tornado damage to Tuscaloosa, Ala. My brother lives there and it’s home to the Crimson Tide. Guess he resents me and other SEC fans commenting on the tragedy and our prayers for the victims. As you said, you he needs to get a life. Some people you just have to feel sorry for.

  28. I think the NFL really has to look at replay if they are going to start ejecting guys for illegal hits because if you eject a guy for a illegal hit it could bite the team in the backside later if the guy was mistakenly ejected and with the game going by so fast I think the refs should use this similar to how basketball both college and pros look at flagrants because you dont want a scenario in which the refs could cost a team a game with the rule. And I know people will say oh this will slow the game down but wouldnt you want to make sure it was the right call to eject a guy instead of a big error?

  29. One rule I would like to see is an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for actions impersonating an official. i.e. making a motion of throwing a flag. Get rid of the “begging for a flag” that an un-named player uses every time he gets hit.

  30. Its ironic that the first comment here was in regards to James Harrison. I too though of him when I read this article. I thought that these rules may actually benefit him and prevent so many of the ticky-tack penalties he began receiving; the ones where he grazed an QB and was still penalized, mostly due to “reputation”. We’ll see if they still flag him for this, contrary to the new rule clarification.

  31. “Does this apply to Polamalu when he launches himself over the pile in short yardage situations?”

    I’m afraid so. The league just took away his biggest advantage. Of course, it may also save him from being injured half the time.

  32. Here’s the real truth with these rule changes….

    The owners now have complete ability to FIX GAMES!!! If you need a team to cover the spread, throw a ghost defenseless receiver flag to keep the drive moving.

    The Maras and Rooneys come from families of bookmakers. Its true. Go look it up. If the owners are truly hemmoraghing money (like they claim) can we really dismiss this as a real possibility?

  33. @jakek2 …

    The Steelers didn’t win a playoff game for the first 40 years of their existence. It’s true. Go look it up. If the Rooneys were truly into fixing games, I think they’d have started when the actual gambler was at the reins. 🙄

  34. No matter the rule change, Roethlisberger will still be an exception. Everyone knows you can waltz in and headbutt him or break his nose and still get the excuse “he was trying to make the tackle.” Hell, if a LB sacks Tom Brady, he gets a flag.

  35. Every time I turn around I am hearing an owner or the Commish talk about how this is not going to get worked out in litigation but with mediation.This is the best way to spend your time?
    Lets do lunch and come up with some BS rules for a season that may not get off the ground.
    As Guinness would say—–BRILLIANT!!!!!!!!
    I have a rule you may want to address.
    How about increasing the rosters by about 7 or 8 players with all the injuries that are going to occur.

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