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League approves changes to protect defenseless players, expand launching rules

Roger Goodell, Robert Kraft

Robert Kraft, owner of the New England Patriots, left, talks with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell while arriving at the NFL football owners meetings in Indianapolis, Tuesday, May 24, 2011. (AP Photo/AJ Mast)


If only progress in the labor dispute were this easy.

NFL owners quickly approved three rule changes Tuesday morning at the spring owner’s meetings, according to Daniel Kaplan of SportsBusiness Journal. The moves are designed to protect defenseless players.

The first change expanded the definition of a defenseless receiver and player.

Now protected in the defenseless player rule include players not “clearly a runner yet” (wide receivers), kickers and punters during returns, and quarterbacks after change of possession.

Albert Breer of NFL Network writes that the league also expanded rules against launching (as expected) and they clarified a rule about “grazing” a quarterback. (We assume this is in relation to helmet contact, but we’ll find out more.)

The expansion of the launching rules prohibits any use of the helmet, in addition to a player leaving feet prior to contact to spring forward into an opponent.

All three measures passed by a 32-0 margin.

UPDATE: Greg A. Bedard of the Boston Globe writes quarterback rule clarifies that only “forcible blows” to the head of the quarterback will be penalized, rather than just any contact at all. A rule defensive players will like!