At the NFL Spring League Meeting in Chicago this week, team owners voted on a number of rule changes. These were changes that were still pending after owners voted to approve eight new rules for 2017 at the owners’ meetings in Phoenix in March.
Some of the new rules, like allowing teams to return two players from injured reserve instead of one, stand to have a significant positive impact on teams. Others, like shortening regular season overtime by five minutes, probably won’t do much toward improving player safety, which was its purpose.
Here’s a rundown of all of the rule changes that the league will put into place for next season, as well as the ones that won’t be happening for 2017.
Rule changes that passed:
The league will loosen restrictions on celebrations
Perhaps the former No Fun League can start referring to itself as the Kind of Fun League after finally deciding to ease up on penalties for on-field celebrations.
This is the right call, even though the standards are being just slightly relaxed. Now, players won’t be penalized for group celebrations, using the ball as a prop, or going to the ground to celebrate. Any celebration that mimics the use of a weapon or is “prolonged” so as to delay the game will still be flagged. That’s understandable.
But the NFL will still penalize players for dances it deems too sexy, like Antonio Brown’s twerking and Michael Bennett’s pelvic thrusting. These dances are fun, so while this is a huge improvement and the league deserves credit for it, we can’t give the NFL a passing grade.
Teams will be allowed to bring two players back from injured reserve
The NFL took a step in the right direction last year by eliminating the requirement that teams decide up front which player to return from injured reserve. This year, they improved the rules surrounding returning players from injured reserve once more by voting to allow teams to bring back two players instead of one.
For teams in playoff contention, this could be the difference between making the postseason and watching from the couch with everyone else. This change is good for teams, players, and for fans who want to see the best players on the field.
NFL approved change to just one roster cutdown day
It used to be that teams had a deadline to get rosters down to 75 players prior to the last preseason game. Owners voted to eliminate that deadline. Now, teams will be able to cut their rosters from 90 to 53 men all at once, with the deadline falling two days after the final preseason game.
This one’s a little confusing. On one hand, it’s good for players on the bubble who may be able to use that last preseason contest to make an impression on coaches. On the other hand, at that point of the preseason, coaching staffs are pretty honed in on the guys they’re planning to keep.
One subtle benefit of this change is that it probably means less playing time for starters in Week 4 of the preseason. The overall impact of this one remains to be seen, though.
Shortened regular season overtime from 15 minutes to 10
The league always says it’s focused on player health and safety, and that was the genesis of this rule change. The theory behind it is that a 15-minute overtime period is a lot of wear and tear for players. When teams have to turn around and play on Thursday Night Football after playing an overtime game on a Sunday, it makes it even more difficult to recover.
But the reality is, shortening it by five minutes probably isn’t going to make much difference. It’s hard for players to get their bodies back to full health whether their last game went into overtime or not. Over the past five seasons, only 26.5 percent of overtime games went longer than 10 minutes.
If the NFL cared about player safety, it would consider scrapping Thursday games altogether. But it won’t, so instead we’ll get shorter regular season overtimes.
League loosened standard for GM interviews
Owners voted to relax the standards for general manager interviews. Teams will not be forced to include final say over the 53-man roster as part of the job description, according to Albert Breer of The MMQB.
This one isn’t likely to have a tremendous impact on the hiring process one way or the other.
Waiver for Los Angeles Super Bowl
The Rams were set to host Super Bowl 55 in 2020, but construction delays on the team’s new stadium have changed that. Owners voted on a waiver to allow the Rams to host Super Bowl 56 in 2021, and it passed unanimously.
Hosting a Super Bowl is a tremendous undertaking, and the league needs ample lead time to ensure that any potential kinks with the new stadium have been worked out well in advance. The Buccaneers will now host Super Bowl 55 in Tampa Bay in 2020, and the Rams will host Super Bowl 56, as long as both teams fulfill the requirements set forth by the league to confirm the change.
Rule change that was tabled:
The league won’t allow teams to negotiate with coaches who are still in the playoffs
A proposal to change the rules for interviewing and negotiating with coaches whose teams are still in the playoffs has been tabled for now. The proposed change would have allowed teams to work out agreements in principle to hire coaches away from teams that were still competing in the postseason.
This one would have leveled the playing field for coaches who are in the mix for promotions with other teams but are still leading their current team through the playoffs. Instead, the rule will stay the same, and a coach won’t be able to reach an agreement with a new team until his team has been eliminated from the postseason.