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2006 NFL Rule Changes

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I wanted to take a moment and discuss the new rule changes entering the season. Why? Well, because we have Chad Johnson.

In March, the competition committee passed 15 playing rules proposals aimed at sportsmanship and player safety. One proposal that failed, but sparked tons of interest, was allowing one defensive player a radio in his helmet.

Let's examine some that passed.

Excessive celebrations: The 29-3 passing vote giving officials more power to assess 15-yard penalties for excessive celebrations, is anything but specific. Some basic celebrations like spikes, dunks, boogey-dancing, crowd leaps and spins will be allowed. Golf shots, marriage proposals, rowing boats, snow angels, foreign objects and even the football (Google baby wiping and Steve Smith) will not be allowed. If you celebrate on the ground, that's 15-yards. The officials will give players warnings and if they continue they will be penalized. Whether or not it's on the same celebration or the next one is up in the air.

I think the NFL is in a losing battle with touchdown celebrations. This has been increasingly accepted in recent seasons. When officials before the game walk up to Chad Johnson and ask, "So what do you have in store for us today" you know the age of the game has changed.

What I don't like is judgment calls. This routinely gets the NFL in trouble as they put additional stress on a group of officials saturated with criticism. What happens if a moderate celebration that's been accepted before gets penalized in the playoffs? Will there be more outrage against the officials? There are black and white rules and there are gray rules. Anytime you give officials gray rules to enforce, you're begging for a monster controversy.

Down-by-contact included on instant replay. Let me shout this for everyone: About dang time! Mike Pereira, the NFL supervisor of officials, said there were 15 plays in 2005 that could have be reversed if "down-by-contact" was included on instant replay. There were times the ball carrier would lose the football while being tackled - there's just so much a referee can observe in an NFL game. Officials would fly and point to the spot on the ground calling the play "down-by-contact" not seeing the ball slip out before the player was tackled. The play would be considered "dead" and instant replay was fruitless. I hear Lee Corso saying "not so fast my friend." Now replay is added on "down-by-contact" plays. An additional rule includes the time to review a play is shortened from 90 to 60 seconds.

I still don't understand why the league doesn't include a replay official in the booth that stops the game if the wrong call was made. College football is doing it this year. Don't force a team to take a time-out (or a ridiculous challenge) because they're convinced the wrong call was made. If the wrong call was made, it's up to the NFL, not the team, to make the right calls. The NFL keeps adding new rules for officials to enforce; remember, refs are part-time employees with full-time jobs during the work week. Shaving two to three minutes off a game because the NFL brass wants to shorten games is a dumb excuse; same for existing over-time rules. Just ensure the game is won by the players; not rules aimed at cooperation with the television networks

Other significant rule changes

  • No hitting the quarterback "forcefully" below the knees.
  • Defenders on field goals, punts, and extra point situations are not allowed to line-up directly over the center. They must line up on either shoulder.
  • The "horse-collar" penalty has been expanded to include tackling players by the back of their jersey.
Next season expect the committee to pass a rule to allow a defensive player a radio in his helmet like the quarterback.