NFL Rules Changes For 2012?

With all the news lately surrounding Bountygate and the resulting sanctions against the Saints franchise (while also awaiting word on player suspensions for those defensive players involved), or the off-again/on-again trade of Tim Tebow and Denver's 7th round 2012 draft pick to the New York Jets for their 2012 4th and 6th round picks, some interesting NFL news is actually flying under the radar: the proposed rules changes for the NFL owner's meeting to debate upon come March 28th.

AP Pro football writer Barry Milner wrote a piece carried by Yahoo! Sports, shown here. I should give credit where credit's due, since I'm pretty much rehashing a lot of what he's saying here in the article.

So, what exactly are we looking at for the new changes that could possibly come in 2012? We'll see after the jump...
First off, instant replay is going to be looked at. The new proposal will make all instant replays (touchdowns, turnovers, challenges, etc.) the purview of the booth official -- the referees on the field would be completely cut out of the decision-making.

Second, the owners will consider extending the new overtime rule currently in effect for post-season play into the regular season as well: if a team starts off kicking a field goal in overtime, the other team must be allowed an offensive possession as well. No more fielding a field goal first thing in overtime and automatically winning the game.

Third, and this is something I think a lot of people might like, though it does raise some questions about player safety depending on the severity of the injury -- players injured in preseason play or early in the schedule could be designated to return from injured reserve after a period of six weeks, and eligible to play again after eight weeks, rather than sitting out the entire season. The idea here is to allow marquee players who get hurt early in the season a chance to come back and play before the end of the season. Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 11, each club would be permitted to designate one player who suffered a "major 3/8 football-related injury after reporting to training camp as eligible to return."

Fourth, the owners will be looking at horse-collar tackling a quarterback inside the pocket a 15-yard penalty. Currently, this is the only loophole to horse-collar tackling penalties.

Fifth, the owners will be looking at expanding the defenseless players rule to protect defensive players against crackback blocks to the head area, or being blocked by an opponent headfirst. Currently, defensive players are only protected from low blocks.

Sixth, the trade deadline is looking to possibly be moved back from after week 6 of the regular season to after week 8. Hand-in-hand with this proposal, NFL franchises would be allowed to maintain a 90-man roster during the offseason and training camp before the first cut, but this would include unsigned draft choices; previously, unsigned players were not counted as part of the 80-man rosters.

Finally, the final cutdown to the 53-man roster may be moved up a day to Friday, August 31 -- part of the NFL moving the first game of the season to Wednesday night, so as not to conflict with President Obama's speech at the Democratic National Convention on September 6.

So, fellow Panthers fans, what do you think about the potential rules changes?

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