The 2016 NFL owners winter meetings have come to a close in Boca Raton, Florida, meaning that the annual shake-up of NFL rules has been cemented. The two major highlights of 2016 NFL rules changes are as follows:
1.) For the 2016 season only, players will be subject to automatic ejection for committing two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game.
2.) The touchback after kickoffs has been moved to the 25-yard line, a change designed to limit the number of returns after injuries on the play increased in 2015.
Both of these rule changes will be evaluated following the conclusion of the 2016 season and NFL owners will vote on whether or not to make these changes permanent at next year’s meetings.
These two rule changes have stirred up some backlash from many NFL players and coaches, including Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman, who criticized NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on his knowledge of the game.
“I think it’s foolish. But it sounds like something somebody who’s never played the game would say, something that they would suggest, because he doesn’t understand. He’s just a face. He’s just a suit. He’s never stepped foot on the field and understood how you can get a personal foul.”
Owners also passed a vote during this year’s meetings to permanently move the PAT attempt back to the 15-yard-line after a trial period during the 2016 preseason, regular season, and postseason showed a massive decrease in the percentage of successful PAT’s converted.
Another new rule change is the outlawing of all chop blocks. This is something that was bound to happen for quite some time due to the increasing amount of knee injuries in today’s NFL. However, it will be interesting to see how running backs adjust to legally picking up the blitz and how offensive lineman adjust to legally taking out opposing pass rushers at the line of scrimmage.
The Baltimore Ravens also reportedly tabled a proposal that suggested that the league allow all but eight penalties (holding, illegal contact, illegal use of hands, pass interference, unsportsmanlike conduct, roughing the kicker, roughing the passer, hitting a defenseless receiver) to be reviewed. The likely outcome for this proposal would be one similar to what the NCAA has done with its targeting rule, where all helmet to helmet hits are reviewed. In college, if it is determined that a player targeted another player with the crown of their helmet upon video review, that player is ejected from the game. This could very well be something that the NFL sees in the future and could actually play a major part in decreasing the number of vicious shots to the head seen in today’s NFL (they should call this the “Burfict Rule” if it ever goes into place).