As most of you know the owners (these guys actually found time to conduct normal off season business--whoa!) met for their annual meeting to discuss - wait for it - rule changes for next season. Seems there is alot of that going on lately. Two of the biggest changes will change the scope of how special teams is played and the other will quite possibly give defensive players and coaches alike a multitude of headaches.
The change on special teams would affect kickoffs and ultimately make that aspect of the game less entertaining. Kickoffs will take place at the 35 yard line. Well, I guess that any team with a kicker who can get it deep will have the advantage and I am willing to bet the number of touchbacks will double next season. Now coaches can look for a kicker who has a strong foot versus having to find a receiver who can field and return kicks. My prediction: far less returns for touchdowns or long returns.
The other change has many, and myself included, scratching our heads. Essentially, the owners voted unimanously to give receivers better protection.
According to an article by Yahoo! Sports columnist Doug Farrar, the changes are as follows:
- defenders will no longer be penalized for collateral "grazing" of the QBs helmet. Not sure if that is completely stoppable and I feel will cause some issues next season.
- anyone who leaves his feet to spring forward and upward into an opponent and delivering the blow to the opponents helmet will be penalized 15 yards.
- the definition of a "defensless player" has been expanded to those attempting or completing a catch without having time to ward off or avoid contact; a runner whose forward progress has been stopped by a tackler; kick off or punt returners during a kick or return, a QB during change of possession and a player receiving a blindside block moving towards his own end zone.
To deal with punishment the league has set actions that deal with multiple offenders and teams who tend to rack up the penalties will be dealth with harshly. Some of the disciplinary actions taken may be a reduction in draft picks.
What I have to wonder is how the league defenses will respond. The winners here are obviously quarterbacks and wide receivers. Essentially, they know they will have time to catch the ball. Maybe I am reading into this the wrong way but that is how it seems to me. The league received criticism from some of the legendary greats about how soft it was becoming and I think these rules just make it seem a lot more softer. Is player safety really that important to the owners? Or are they conspiring to negate benefits of retired players who are suffering from injuries caused from their playing days? Anything is possible with this lockout and the players trying to get more for the retired players. So, what say you Panther faithful?