ARLINGTON TX - FEBRUARY 06: James Harrison #92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers celebrates after a sack against the Green Bay Packers during Super Bowl XLV at Cowboys Stadium on February 6 2011 in Arlington Texas. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)

NFL Rule Change Allows For Teams To Be Penalized If Players Make Repeat Illegal Hits

In their ongoing effort to protect players and crack down on dirty hits, the NFL announced Tuesday that they would start punishing teams whose players committed multiple illegal hits that resulted in fines.

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NFL Rule Change Punishes Teams For Flagrant Hits By Players

Next season, whenever that may be, the NFL will start fining teams for repeated flagrant hits resulting in fines by their players. The NFL instituted a stricter policy on the punishment of dirty hits last season, fining a number of players for hits on defenseless players and helmet to helmet hits, and this rule goes another step further in trying to change the culture surrounding illegal hits in the NFL. As it stands, punishment will be financial, but when asked about the possibility of teams being fined draft picks, league vice president Adolpho Birch said commissioner Roger Goodell had not ruled it out.

Regarding how punishment would be assessed, Birch had this to say:

"As a club's total increases to a certain threshold, we will enforce some ... payback to encourage clubs to stay below that threshold. We're looking at a system similar to one we instituted a couple years ago with off-field conduct."

This is a fairly significant development, provided that football is played in the near future, and it should significantly change the attitudes of players and coaches regarding questionable hits.


NFL Rule Changes: Has The Value Of Return Specialists Been Significantly Diminished?

With the NFL's announcement that kickoffs would be moved from the 30 yard line to the 35 yard line, a move made with the intention of increasing touchbacks and decreasing kickoff returns due to safety concerns, it's fair to wonder about how much the value of kick return specialists will diminish should the NFL ever return, resembling the old product we were used to. The number of kickoffs that ended up between the three yard line and three yards deep in the end zone seems high through pure personal recollection. It's hardly scientific, but on the surface, this five yard change seems like it could be a big deal.

To see how much the rule change will affect kickoffs, and therefore, the value of kickoff specialists, someone would have to go through every NFL kickoff from this season (or just 1000 of them, actually. Hi high school statistics teacher!) and determine how many of them just narrowly avoided being likely touchbacks. Of course, we'd have to set a parameter for "likely touchbacks," which we could figure out while we were taking the kickoff length sample. 

My hypothesis is that somewhere in the neighborhood of 1/2 of kickoffs fall between the three yard line and three yards deep in the end zone. With the rules changing, I would consider these likely to become touchbacks. Obviously, based on a variety of factors (intelligence of kick returner, ineptitude of kickoff coverage), not all of these will become touchbacks. After taking the samples for kickoff length and setting our parameter for likely touchbacks, we can then figure out what percentage of kickoffs that fall in our "likely touchbacks" parameter actually result in touchbacks. From there, you figure out the likely increase in touchbacks as a result of the rule change. Compare that to the rate of successful kick returns (a completely different set of parameters and sampling that we won't get into), and you can figure out how the value of kick return specialists might decrease.

My guess? This rule change makes kick return specialists incredibly less valuable. Like, by a factor of over 9000. If any NFL team actually wants to pay me to do this research, my e-mail address is on my profile page. My rates are reasonable!


Winners And Losers From NFL Kickoff Rule Changes

As you all know by now, NFL owners announced a rule change that will move the kickoff from the 30 to the 35-yard line. The change was done primarily to avoid injuries as kickoffs are one of the more dangerous parts of the game.

We're not sure exactly how it will affect the game but the number of kickoff returns will likely decrease. This means, in theory. that teams will generally have worse field position on kickoffs.

The winners from this will be the teams that have poor special teams coverage units and those with strong-legged kickers. Those with poor special teams will see the playing field evened slightly as they won't be seeing as many returns which means they can't give up big returns or touchdowns. Those with kickers who have a strong leg will see more touchbacks thus limiting the return potential against them.

The losers from this are the teams will good return men -- teams like the Bears and Jets. Devin Hester is the premier return man in the NFL and his value has decreased, as has the Jets' Brad Smith.

In 1994, the kickoffs moved from the 35 to the 30-yard line which had the percentage of kicks returned go from 68 percent to 88 percent. In 2010, that number was 80 percent. So there will be a somewhat significant decline in returns if history is any indication.


NFL Owners Enact 'Boise State Rule'; Fields Must Be Shade Of Green

Can you imagine walking into the New Meadowlands Stadium and looking at blue turf a la Boise State?

If you can imagine it, don't expect it to turn to reality. At the NFL owners meetings on Tuesday it was announced that a new rule had been enacted that eliminates the possibility of blue turf.

NFL teams must have their field color approved by the league and it has to be a shade of green.

This is obviously a reaction to a couple of colorful fields we've seen in college football including the blue one at Boise State and the red one at Eastern Washington. Those fields are unique, to say the least, but the NFL wants no part of it, apparently.

As much fun as it is to see those fields, I like this rule change. It might be cool at first to see a Boise State or Eastern Washington-type field but looking at it every Sunday? I could do without that.

This was one of several rule changes put into place on Tuesday. Read about the changes to the kickoff and to replay on scoring plays.


NFL Replay Rule Changed; All Scoring Plays Subject To Booth Review

The NFL tweaked the rules on replay challenges at the owners' meetings in New Orleans on Tuesday. Under the new rule, all scoring players will be subject to a booth review. Previously, the only automatic booth review came under two minutes of each half. Now all scoring plays can be reviewed without a coach using a challenge.

The original proposal also called for the elimination of the third replay challenge but that will remain intact.

I'm not sure how I feel about these changes. On the one hand, I'm all for getting a call correct, especially scoring plays. This takes the burden off the head coaches to use a challenge if a scoring play is incorrect. On the other hand, it will slow down the game. The NFL supposedly has a time limit on challenges but I'm not sure I've ever seen that enforced.

The NFL owners also voted to change the kickoff rules which you can read here.


NFL Rule Changes: Kickoffs Moved To 35-Yard Line; Touchbacks Remain Same

The NFL owners meetings in New Orleans aren't just about the current labor situation -- it's also about rule changes. The Competition Committee proposed a rule change that would move kickoffs from the 30 to the 35-yard line and it passed, according to reports.

So kickoffs will now start at the 35-yard line which likely means more touchbacks. For the NFL's purposes, that means less returns, which in turn may mean less injuries. Kickoff returns are one of the most dangerous parts of the game and player safety has been an emphasis in recent years.

According to various reports, many NFL coaches weren't too high on the proposed change because it takes away the value of the kickoff. If there are more touchbacks, there are less chances to score touchdowns or improve your field positions.

One other proposal that was being discussed was moving a touchback from the 20 to the 25-yard line. That proposal didn't make it to the owners and touchbacks will remain at the 20-yard line. Also not making it was a proposal to eliminate the two-man wedge. That will remain as well.

So the rule change means more touchbacks which means the value of a kick returner just went down. Sorry, Devin Hester.


NFL Rule Changes Could Be Coming To Kickoffs, Replays

The NFL's Competition Committee held a conference call with reporters on Wednesday discussing some of the proposed rule changes and other points of emphasis. Player safety is something they're focusing on this year and you can see that with a few of the proposed rule changes. 

These are just what's been proposed and would have to be voted on by NFL owners. Here are a few of the topics covered:

-Flagrant (illegal) hits will result in suspensions, especially from repeat offenders. They said this last year but we only saw an increase in fines given to the players. This year it appears it will be stressed which means at some point we're going to see someone suspended for an illegal hit. So basically James Harrison should sit out next year.

-The Committee is proposing that all scoring plays -- touchdowns, extra points, field goals and safeties -- are reviewed by the replay assistant and, if necessary, by the official on the field. Currently, a coach would have to throw the challenge flag (outside of the last two minutes of each half). I like this because, regardless of whether you have a challenge remaining or not, officials should get plays that change the score right.

-The Committee noted a concern of the injury rate on kickoffs so they've proposed moving the kickoff from the 30 to the 35-yard line and moving the touchback from 20 to the 25-yard line. That would mean less kickoff returns which would then mean less injuries. 

-They said some teams were actually in favor of eliminating kickoffs altogether. Wow. That would be a massive change, but it doesn't look like it'll be happening (at least not this year).

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