BOCA RATON, Fla. – NFL owners aren’t specifically trying to make theirs a kinder, gentler game, but a couple of proposals up for votes at this week’s owners meetings do take the league a little further in that direction.
Among the 19 proposals up for consideration from originators ranging from the league’s Competition Committee to the Baltimore Ravens are: banning all chop blocks; ejecting players guilty to two personal fouls of selected types in one game; expanding the definition of horse-collar tackles to include grabbing the uniform in the nameplate area; and moving the starting point after touchbacks on kickoffs, from the 20- to the 25-yard line – effectively giving a five-yard bonus to teams and returners who down the ball rather than attempt to run it out in hopes of bettering the start point at the 20.
Defensive players have long decried chop blocks, where a blocker hits a defender in the knees or back of the legs while the defender is already engaged elsewhere. Those blocks have been legal in clearly identified areas during a play but now would be banned entirely. The block also has typically drawn a fine regardless of whether the infraction was penalized at the time.
Odell Beckham Jr.’s multi-play attack on Carolina Panthers cornerback Josh Norman did not result in the New York Giants wide receiver being ejected. But it could now.
Commissioner Roger Goodell suggested during Super Bowl week that player ejections for two egregious fouls would be considered. The Committee is now suggesting that specific unsportsmanlike conduct penalties could lead to ejections:
- Throwing a punch or a forearm, or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made.
- Using abusive, threatening or insulting language, or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the league.
- Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.
Ejections would not be automatic but the intent is to make clear that officials have that option, and it will not necessarily require two flags for that ejection.
And Peyton Manning may be gone, but he’s not forgotten, at least in the minds of former opponents. The Kansas City Chiefs have put forward a proposal that quarterbacks not be allowed to slide down, then get up an throw a forward pass, as Manning did in the Denver Broncos’ playoff win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
The Baltimore Ravens did not like what they considered subterfuge by the New England Patriots.
The league is also considering making permanent the setup of PAT kicks from the 15-yard line as the line of scrimmage. If there’s an irony here, it is that one of the chief critics of the PAT as it previously stood was New England coach Bill Belichick, whose Patriots lost to the Broncos in the AFC Championship game after a costly miss from the new distance by All-Pro kicker Stephen Gostkowski – one of 71 such misses in the 2015 regular season.