NFL owners passed five rules proposals that could make football safer during the coming season. Most significant, perhaps, is the addition of an injury spotter in the booth who has the power to contact on-field officials to call a medical timeout when he or she suspects that a player has suffered an injury.
The medical timeout was approved unanimously by owners, general managers, head coaches and commissioner Roger Goodell, according to NFL.com's Ian Rapoport. Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said that the proposal was inspired, in part, by the Super Bowl, during which New England Patriots receiver Julian Edelman appeared to be suffering from concussion symptoms while he was on the field.
"The Edelman situation was a play we looked at and it was part of the issue," McKay said. "There were a couple of other plays that go back a couple of years that we looked at and really it came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, ‘We got the [athletic trainer] spotters, they've got a really good vantage point, they've got technology in their booth, they're communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors and we've got a pretty good rhythm going there, why would we miss a player where a player shouldn't come out?'"
In addition to the medical timeout, NFL owners approved rules that:
- Ban defensive players from pushing teammates at the line of scrimmage against punt formations (this rule already exists for players against field goal and extra point formations).
- Ban offensive players from engaging in peel-back blocks.
- Ban running backs from chop blocking a defender who is already being blocked above the waist by another offensive player outside the tackle box.
- Grant receivers more protection as defenseless players during interceptions.
Those four rule changes could lead to more penalties, though probably not to the drastic extent of the NFL's emphasis on illegal contact during the 2014 preseason.
The addition of an injury spotter shouldn't effect the game significantly, either -- medical timeouts have existed for a long time now -- though it might have made a difference in the Super Bowl.