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NFL Approves Seven Rule Changes, Including Elimination of Chop Block

The NFL has approved seven rule changes for the 2016 season that were proposed by the Competition Committee at the NFL Annual Meeting in Boca Raton, Fla.

NFL owners approved several rule changes Tuesday at the annual league meetings in Boca Raton, Florida. Most notably chop blocks, which previously had been legal in certain situations, have now been eliminated completely.

Previously, a chop block, which is defined as "a block by the offense in which one offensive player blocks a defensive player in the area of the thigh or lower while another offensive player engages that same defensive player above the waist" was legal in certain circumstances. Before this rule change, if two offensive players were initially aligned adjacent to each other on the line of scrimmage, a chop block was legal on running plays. Chop blocks were also legal when offensive players aligned more than one position away from each other on the line of scrimmage when the flow of the play was toward the block. Starting in 2016, all chop blocks are a 15-yard penalty.

"Hopefully from an injury standpoint, it's a darn good rule," Seahawks Executive VP/General Manager John Schneider told Seattle-area reporters at the NFL Annual Meeting. "We're a zone team, but we want to do it the right way and have it taught the right way. People getting injured is not the intent. The way it was described, I thought the committee did a great job vetting it and explaining it. It's a great rule and kind of a non-issue." 

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One important clarification to point out, however, is that a cut block and a chop block are not the same thing. Offensive lineman can still block low, which is part of Seattle's zone-blocking scheme, so long as the defensive player is not already engaged by another blocker.

Other rule changes approved today are:

  • Proposed by Competition Committee; Permanently moves the line of scrimmage for Try kicks to the defensive team's 15-yard line, and allows the defense to return any missed Try.
  • By Competition Committee; Permits the offensive and defensive play callers on the coaching staffs to use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth. Previously only on-field coaches could use the coach-to-player system.
  • By Competition Committee; Expands the horse collar rule to include when a defender grabs the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.
  • By Competition Committee; Makes it a foul for delay of game when a team attempts to call a timeout when it is not permitted to do so.
  • By Competition Committee; Eliminates the five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver illegally touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and re-establishing himself inbounds, and makes it a loss of down.
  • By Competition Committee; Eliminates multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession.

Other rule changes proposed by the competition committee or by teams that did not pass Tuesday are still on the table for Wednesday's meeting.

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