Insiders

NFL AM: Rule Changes Coming — But Not The Ones We Hoped For

on

When the National Football League’s Competition Committee convenes at next week’s NFL Annual Meeting they are expected to discuss several rule changes that could impact the way the game is played in 2016.

Among the proposed rule changes is an automatic ejection rule that should inspire much debate. As the rule is currently written, but not yet passed, any player who gets flagged twice in one game for unsportsmanlike conduct would be automatically ejected from the game.

It’s a rule change originally proposed by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell during Super Bowl week, stemming from the Week 15 war between Odell Beckham Jr. and Josh Norman that left a black mark on what was otherwise one of the best games of the season.

The two competitive players traded barbs, taunts and blows several times over the course of the game, in a battle that escalated to the point where control of the game was lost by the officials. It was an embarrassing display of unsportsmanlike conduct for the league, yet still both players were permitted to remain in the game for the duration, an oversight Goodell would like to make sure does not happen again. Beckham Jr. was suspended for New York’s next game. Norman received just fines.

“We should take that out of the hands of the officials when it gets to that point,” Goodell said. “They obviously will have to throw the flag. When they do, we will look to see if we can reach an agreement on the conditions of which they can be ejected. But that’s a Competition Committee matter…I’ve recommended already to the Competition Committee to at least consider what I think is consistent with our goals of trying to bring sportsmanship back in, the kind of play to keep the focus on the game, keep the focus on the great plays happening.”

One rule that now seems unlikely to be considered, again, for some reason, is the catch rule.

As the rule currently stands, nobody really knows for sure what is or isn’t a catch. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport the league is going to offer more public education as to what the rule entails and how it is officiated. But that’s part of the problem. There shouldn’t be a need for more education on the matter. The very idea that people need to be educated on what is and isn’t a catch is absurd.

But the rule has reached a point of such complication that it’s anyone’s guess on any given catch what the officials will decide upon review. And the way it is officiated has changed the course of several games over the past few years, most recently the playoff game between the Arizona Cardinals and Green Bay Packers was altered by and “is or isn’t it a catch” play involving Larry Fitzgerald.

Instead of trying to educate us like we’re stupid, the league needs to get back to basics in terms of judging what is and isn’t a catch. No more football moves. Not more process of the catch going to the ground. Two feet down, in bounds, with control of the ball, is a catch. Anything that happens with the ball after that can be a fumble. That might lead to more turnovers. Which is great because everyone loves turnovers. They’re very entertaining. And that’s what we’re after here. What’s not entertaining? Trying to explain a catch to people like it’s an algebraic equation. No more of that, please.

Among the other potential rule changes expected to be heard when the Competition Committee meets instead of the catch rule are several proposals to change instant replay, an expansion of the horse collar rule to include grabbing the jersey at or above the nameplate, a rule that prohibits quarterbacks from throwing the ball after falling down, and a proposal to make all chop blocks illegal. NFL.com has compiled a full list of potential rule changes on the docket.

DARYL SMITH HEADED TO TAMPA 

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers continued their somewhat quietly impressive offseason with another addition to their defense late Thursday, signing former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Daryl Smith to a contract.

Smith was released by Baltimore in early March after three seasons with the team, in a cost-cutting move that saved the Ravens $3 million against the cap. The 12-year veteran heads to Tampa after a 2015 season in which he led the Ravens in tackles with 121 and becomes the latest addition to a Bucs defense that was already ranked in the Top 10 in the NFL last season. Tampa Bay general manager Jason Licht praised Smith’s skill and leadership as traits that made him attractive to the franchise.

“We’re excited to add a player of Daryl’s caliber to our defense,” Licht said in a statement. “He’s a smart, consistent linebacker who has performed at a very high level throughout his career. Daryl’s combination of leadership and experience will serve us well.”

The Bucs have already added defensive end Robert Ayers and cornerback Brent Grimes to their defense, which allowed the 10th fewest yards per game of any team in the league last season. But their linebacking corps certainly needed to be addressed as well.

The team added former Dallas Cowboys linebacker Bruce Carter for that purpose last offseason but after one poor season, deemed Carter an ill fit and released him. Smith seems to fit the bill of what they’re seeking a little better and should slot in at the Mike linebacker spot next to Pro Bowl LB Lavonte David at the Will. However, Smith does have experience playing all three linebacker positions in the 4-3 defense and that versatility makes him even more attractive to the Bucs.

It should be an interesting season for Tampa Bay. Aith Jameis Winston a year older, Doug Martin returning to anchor their ground attack and Mike Evans continuing to develop into one of the game’s most elite receivers, they are in good shape on offense. Making three noteworthy additions an already strong defense should go a long way toward their goal of moving up in the NFC South and making a playoff run.

RAVENS’ TRAY WALKER CRITICALLY INJURED IN MOTORCYCLE ACCIDENT

In some somber news, Baltimore Ravens cornerback Tray Walker is listed in critical condition after a motorcycle accident near his hometown of Miami on Thursday night.

Walker was driving a dirtbike near his home at around 7:50 p.m. when he collided with a small SUV heading in the opposite direction. According to reports, Walker did not have his lights on, and was wearing dark clothing, making it difficult for the driver of the other vehicle to see him.

He was transported to Ryder Trauma Center at Jackson Memorial Hospital, where he remains in critical condition.

Walker, a 2015 fourth round pick of the Ravens out of Texas Southern, played in eight games for Baltimore last season, mostly on special teams. But his connection to the team ran deeper than that, made obvious by the outpouring of messages by teammates on social media.

 


About Devon Jeffreys

Devon Jeffreys