NFL owners approved a handful of rules changes during Thursday’s meeting, including one that will close a loophole that allowed teams to run chunks of time off the clock by intentionally committing dead ball fouls.
The Patriots purposely committed fouls to run time before punting in a regular season win against the Jets and their head coach Bill Belichick said after the game that he thought the league would move to eliminate the tactic. He was right, although it couldn’t happen until after Titans coach Mike Vrabel took advantage of the same loophole in a playoff win over New England.
The change covers the fourth quarter and overtime of games. The game clock will now start on the next snap rather than when officials set the ball after assessing a penalty.
In addition to that change, owners also voted in favor of two other changes. One made permanent the rule calling for booth-generated reviews of successful and unsuccessful tries for points after touchdowns and the other approved enhanced defenseless player protections for kickoff and punt returners.
Those protections, which bar forcible hits to the head or neck area, hits from an opponent who lowers his helmet to make forcible contact and hits from an opponent who launch themselves, now extend until returners have a chance to ward off players from the other team.