A Look at Possible NFL Rule Changes for 2016

The NFL annual meetings are underway in Boca Raton, Florida, which means potential rule changes will be voted on this week.

With the NFL annual meetings underway in Boca Raton, Florida, one of the topics of business, as always, will be deciding on what rule changes or points of emphasis will be put into effect for the 2016 season.

If you're interested in a list of proposed changes, it can be found NFL.com. That story also links you to an even longer list of proposed rule changes, bylaw proposals and more. But if you don't feel like reading through a 62-page document, here are a few highlights.

  • In one of the most hotly-debated proposed changes this offseason, the Competition Committee is proposing that a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct will be ejected from the game. Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who was recently elected to the NFLPA executive committee, has expressed his concerns about this proposed change.

An important distinction that Falcons President and Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay points out is that this rule does not apply to personal fouls, but rather unsportsmanlike conduct. In other words, two facemask penalties or late hits on a quarterback won't get you ejected, but things like taunting, throwing a punch or forearm (even without making contact), and threatening or insulting language or gestures would be covered by this rule.

"To us, on the sportsmanship side, that's what led us to this rule," McKay said on a conference call. "We did talk about the personal foul side. There is that concern that's raised on the degree of fouls, if you will. We don't really make a difference anymore between a five and a 15-yard facemask. So do you want, what we would have considered two five-yard facemasks in the past where people just grazed the facemask but we call it a foul, and we should, would we want that to be an ejection? And I think our answer to that was no."

  • Proposed by the Competition Committee: all chop blocks would be illegal.

Over the years the NFL has made different types of chop blocks illegal in the name of player safety, and this rule would get rid of cop blocks all together.

"The chop block has been a rule that we've modified so many times over the years," McKay said. "This time, we will propose the elimination of all forms of the chop block. The key note would be at the end of the rule if you're looking at it, which is on the second page of the rule proposals. It is not a foul if a blocker's opponent initiates contact so if the defender initiates contact above the waist or if the blocker is trying to flip or escape his opponent. We'll have plenty of tape to show you when we get to the meetings that will show what is a legal maneuver that will allow a low block and what is not. We think this is an important rule change for us."  

  • Proposed by the Competition Committee: following a touchback, the ball would be placed at the 25-yard line instead of the 20-yard line. College football has already made this change, and the NFL is in favor of it as another way to make the game safer. Kick returns tend to be one of the more violent plays in the game, and this change would incentivize returners to take more touchbacks.
  • The Kansas City Chiefs are proposing a rule that would prohibit a quarterback from falling to the ground, getting up, then throwing a forward pass. The Seahawks might not like this proposed change.
  • After a one-year test run with longer extra points, the Competition Committee is proposing to make it a permanent change that the extra point is attempted from the 15-yard line. In the first year of moving the extra point back, kickers went from making 99.3 percent of PATs in 2014 to making 94.2 percent, and 71 missed extra-point attempts was the highest total of misses since 1977.
  • There are multiple proposed changes involving challenges, including Baltimore proposing that each team is provided with three challenges, instead of two, as well as expanding what is reviewable. Buffalo, meanwhile, proposes any official's decision can be challenged by a coach except for scoring plays and turnovers.
  • From Washington, a proposed change that seemingly everyone ought to embrace: eliminating overtime from preseason games.
  • A couple of interesting bylaw proposals include eliminating the roster cut-down to 75 players (submitted by Washington), meaning teams could carry 90 players up to the date when rosters are trimmed to 53.
  • Arizona, meanwhile, proposes a change that would allow teams to have 48 active players on game day rather than 46. This is an idea Seahawks coach Pete Carroll will likely be behind considering in the past he has expressed his opinion that all 53 players should be allowed to suit up and play rather than having to declare seven inactive players.

"The roster limits that we have don't let these guys play," Carroll said in 2014. "I'd like to talk about that when we get a chance to talk about 46-man rosters. We've got 53 guys practicing, we've got some great players who are sitting down every week. I wish more guys had a chance to play, I don't know why they don't. Because these guys are legitimate candidates to be playing in the game and they could do stuff to help themselves and help our team, and they just don't get the chance. It's unfortunate."

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