The NFL’s Annual League meeting took place March 25-28, and it brought about some rule changes for the 2018 season.
Owners started voting on new proposals Tuesday. The biggest change was made to the catch rule, and while not everything up for vote passed, a few others did. That’s not all that happened this week: There was also the yearly coaches yearbook photo, and quotes from coaches on a variety of topics across the league.
Here’s everything you need to know, with grades for the big rule changes that did or did not pass.
Surprise! There’s a new targeting rule, kinda.
While it appeared that there wouldn’t be a targeting rule implemented this year, that has taken a dramatic turn:
Sources: After deep discussion over the past two days about taking the head out of the game, the NFL competition committee is currently formulating language on a targeting rule that could go to a vote as soon as today.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 27, 2018
A new rule to prevent helmet-to-helmet hits was passed, though it’s not entirely finished yet.
NFL owners just passed a targeting rule. I’m told they have not yet defined it for ejections, and the league will work on that and present it at the May meeting. Plays will potentially be reviewable by New York.— Albert Breer (@AlbertBreer) March 27, 2018
Playing Rule Article 8: It is a foul if a player lowers his head to initiate and make contact with his helmet against an opponent. The player may be disqualified. Applies to any player anywhere on the field. The player may be disqualified.— Brian McCarthy (@NFLprguy) March 27, 2018
Aside from the new catch rule, this is the biggest development coming out of Orlando. While it’s a little unclear what the final version will look like, it’s definitely happening.
Grade: B. We’re all for protection, and would have given this an A. But it seems this was something the NFL just scrapped together at the last second, so it lose points for that.
The new catch rule passes unanimously.
This is the big one. We’ve all heard of, and debated, the Calvin Johnson rule and “Dez caught it.” Then “survive the ground” became a common phrase in 2017, especially after Jesse James’ touchdown reception was ruled a non-catch despite already having crossed the goal line.
The owners unanimously passed the competition committee’s proposal, which aimed to simplify the language:
After much deliberation & input from coaches, players, @NFLLegends, & club executives, the @NFL Competition Committee will recommend the following language simplifying the catch rule at the Annual Meeting next week. pic.twitter.com/hJwH5YYBRK— Al Riveron (@alriveron) March 21, 2018
The change would also limit the amount of replays, and time for replays, which would help shorten games.
Under the new rule, a play like James’ would be a catch. But that’s not all. On Monday, Riveron clarified three oft-debated non-touchdowns would have been catches under the new proposal:
Al Riveron says the Zach Miller play would’ve been a touchdown under the new rule, too.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 26, 2018
And so is the Kelvin Benjamin play.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 26, 2018
If you’ve forgotten, the Benjamin play took four points off the scoreboard of the Bills’ eventual loss to the Patriots in Week 16.
And if you’ve forgotten the Miller non-catch, it’s likely because you blocked it out after he nearly lost his dang leg doing so.
Grade: A. It might not solve everything, but it’s a (football) move in the right direction.
Approved: Allowing officials an opportunity to eject players after replay.
The competition committee has put forth a proposal that would give referees the opportunity to eject a player after reviewing a play. Rob Gronkowski’s late hit that concussed Tre’Davious White is the most recent example of a case where this would have been implemented.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport mentioned on Tuesday that the rule is expected to bring more ejections, and as a result, less suspensions.
Grade: A. Gronkowski’s incident last season was way over the line, and was incredibly dangerous. If the NFL can review those few instances and eject a player during the game, it’s worth it.
Not approved: Limiting early East Coast kickoffs for West Coast teams.
The 49ers, Cardinals, and Chargers have proposed a limitation on early East Coast kickoffs they are forced to play each season. This rule was not approved.
Grade: D. That time difference is a pain in the butt for West Coast teams, especially if — for example — you’re the Seahawks traveling a great distance to somewhere such as New York or Miami.
Approved: Eliminating the requirement that a team who scores a winning TD at the end of regulation has to kick the XP or go for two.
This is a little change, except maybe for Vegas. There’s a case for and against the change.
The case for this one is simply being teams don’t need to take a knee to finish a game. The argument against that is, in case a team was down either one or two points, a bobbled snap could (unlikely, but) possibly be taken back for two points, and the game would continue.
This was passed on Wednesday, so there wouldn’t be chaos at the end of a game like the Minneapolis Miracle.
Grade: A. Yeah, that doesn’t need to happen again.
Not approved: Allowing teams to hire a head coach who’s still in the midst of a playoff run.
Remember how the Colts had to wait until after the Patriots’ Super Bowl appearance to hire Josh McDaniels — only for the New England offensive coordinator to turn around and decide, “never mind”? Well, if this new resolution proposal were to be passed, then teams wouldn’t have to be that patient. They could hire their head coaching choice even if he’s still working for a team in the postseason.
Unfortunately for future teams trying to pry assistants, it was tabled for the time being:
The so called Josh McDaniels rule that would have allowed assistants to be hired while their teams are still in post season has been tabled.— Judy Battista (@judybattista) March 27, 2018
Bill Belichick was unsurprisingly one coach who spoke out against this particular measure.
According to sources in the room, Bill Belichick was among most coaches who spoke out against in-game use of video—and was among a few coaches who spoke out against the so-called Josh McDaniels Rule, on legal and competitive grounds.— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) March 27, 2018
Grade: TBD. If the NFL doesn’t change this at the next meeting in May, we’ll give it an F.
Withdrawn: Defensive pass interference as a spot foul.
The NFL treats defensive pass interference as a spot foul, meaning teams could be awarded 60-plus yards of field position on a single play.
The NCAA limits defensive pass interference to 15 yards, where it’s worked out just fine. There ended up not being a vote on this one, because the Jets withdrew their proposal. It wasn’t expected to pass, anyway.
Grade (if they were to vote, and vote no): D. As our Richard Johnson illustrates, it works in the college game.
The other rules/bylaws that passed
The rules and bylaws mentioned above were the most notable, but not the only ones that owners voted on and passed. Here’s the entire list:
Approved playing rules
By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.
By Competition Committee; Changes standard for a catch.
By Competition Committee; Makes the penalties for Illegal Batting & Kicking the same.
By Competition Committee; Authorizes the designated member of the Officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant nonfootball act when a foul for that act is called on the field.
By Competition Committee; Eliminates the requirement that a team who scores a winning touchdown at the end of regulation of a game to kick the extra point or go for two-point conversion.
By Competition Committee; In overtime, if the team that possess the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession and the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, including awarding points scored by either team during the down.
By Competition Committee; Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.
By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility.
By Buffalo; For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.
By Competition Committee; Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.
By Miami; Amends Article XVII, Section 17.1 to remove the requirement that a non-vested player be placed on waivers to be removed from the 90-player roster prior to the roster reduction to 53 players.
By Minnesota; Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.
By Competition Committee; A player who is designated for return is eligible to be activated after eight games, not eight weeks.
By Competition Committee; Lengthens the period to execute an Injury Settlement from five business days to seven business days.
By Competition Committee; Changes the deadline to reinstate players from certain Reserve List categories.
By Competition Committee; Updates Reserve/Military List procedures to reflect the current League calendar.
By Competition Committee; For one year only, permits an interested club to contact a Vested Veteran before clubs have been notified of the player’s termination via the Player Personnel Notice if (i) the players is not subject to the Waivers System and, (ii) the employer club has publicly announced the player’s release.
The most important of these rules would probably be teams now being allowed to trade players from IR, and changing the 10-day postseason claiming period to a 24-hour period. The latter was proposed by the Vikings, who ended up losing tight end Kyle Carter to the Giants due to the old rule.
Grade: B. They’re good changes, just not nearly as exciting as the others!
The Rams’ new stadium is going to cost HOW MUCH?
Today NFL team owners will vote to increase the debt limit for the Rams new stadium, which according to internal league documents is now projected to cost an amazing $4.963 billion.— Seth Wickersham (@SethWickersham) March 27, 2018
For reference, the Falcons’ Mercedes-Benz Stadium and the Vikings’ U.S. Bank Stadium, which have both opened in the past couple years, each cost just over $1 billion.
The best quotes from the coaches breakfast
Jon Gruden doesn’t know how replay works, but no one’s surprised by this:
Jon Gruden just said he’d like to eliminate instant replay. Thinks everything looks like a penalty in slow motion.— Tom Pelissero (@TomPelissero) March 27, 2018
Jon Gruden is immortal, but no one’s surprised by this:
Gruden says he will try to be more flexible this time around. "You have to adapt. You adapt or die. And I don't plan on dying."— Vic Tafur (@VicTafur) March 27, 2018
Sean McVay is so right about Wade Phillips:
Sean McVay on handling the personalities and egos on defense: "I think the defensive coordinator has more swag than all of them, so we’ll be in good shape."— Gary Klein (@LATimesklein) March 27, 2018
When did Mike Tomlin turn 85 years old?
Mike Tomlin not a fan of touchdown celebrations: "I just think it takes away from the game. It’s not a good look for young people. Young people aren’t allowed to celebrate in that way, so why should we?"— Jeremy Fowler (@JFowlerESPN) March 27, 2018
Check it out on SnapFace, MyFace, InstantFace, or Daily Chat.
Belichick was asked if he's spoken to Brady this offseason: "Yeah, I covered that the other day. Trust me, it’s on every internet site you want to find. I’m sure we can pull it up for you."— Mark Daniels (@MarkDanielsPJ) March 27, 2018
Bowles on Hackenberg: “He’s a quarterback on our team.”— Calvin Watkins (@calvinwatkins) March 27, 2018
This just in: Baker Mayfield is trying to build a new internet:
Hue Jackson on Baker Mayfield: I feel like he's a Pied Piper of Oklahoma football. When he walked into the bldg, he made this sound - kind of went hee hee -- & all the players in the bldg started going hee hee and here we go. Most unbelievable thing I've ever seen. .— Tony Grossi (@TonyGrossi) March 27, 2018
Says the guy who brought in Jay Cutler ...
Adam Gase says he got the right guys this offseason. Says they have “alpha dogs” who won’t tolerate “some of the bullshit” that went on in the locker room last season.— Jason Lieser (@JasonLieser) March 27, 2018
Don’t expect the owners to decide on a national anthem policy.
The owners discussed the national anthem and social justice messages on Monday.
“We’re going to talk about it more today, look at it in the May meeting and have more conversations with the players about it,” Pittsburgh Steelers owner Art Rooney told SB Nation’s Thomas George.
Nothing was decided as far as policy, at least not this week:
NFL teams unanimously agreed to implement a local matching funds component to social justice platform, per source. NFL did discuss anthem gameday policy, but no rule changes were proposed and no votes taken. This will be subject of ongoing discussion, including at May meeting.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 26, 2018
Patriots' Robert Kraft said he expects owners to try to reach a resolution in May about the national anthem policy.— MarkMaske (@MarkMaske) March 26, 2018
They could decide to make it a policy that all players have to stand for the anthem, or that teams remain in the locker room during it. Or perhaps they won’t make a decision at all because there’s still division among the owners.
Texans owner Bob McNair is firmly opposed to any protests:
More McNair, on protests: "There are fans that are upset about it. Fans are our customers. You can replace the owners and the league would survive. You can replace the players, although the game won't be good. You can't replace the fans. If you don't have the fans, you're dead."— Jarrett Bell (@JarrettBell) March 25, 2018
The Jets’ Christopher Johnson is on the other side of the debate:
.@nyjets owner Christopher Johnson strongly opposes any @NFL policy change that would restrict player expression: “I can't speak to how other people run their teams, but I just think that trying to forcibly get the players to shut up is a fantastically bad idea."— Kevin Seifert (@SeifertESPN) March 25, 2018
NFL commissioner Roger Goddell wouldn’t commit to anything in May.
“Ownership and I will continue to discuss as we see is needed,” he said. “My focus is entirely on listening to players, understand what they’re protesting.”
SCHOOL PICTURE DAY
Everyone’s favorite tradition at the annual meeting: photo day!
The coaches (minus Bill Belichick, Pete Carroll, and John Harbaugh) gathered for theirs, to varying degrees of excitement:
NFL head coaches at league meetings in Orlando #9sports pic.twitter.com/sjaMWldggj— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 26, 2018
And most of the GMs joined John Elway’s hair for their photo op:
NFL GMs: John Lynch and John Elway in front row. #9sports pic.twitter.com/Ph41Kds3dn— Mike Klis (@MikeKlis) March 26, 2018
More penalties for illegal use of the helmet.
This isn’t up for vote because it’s already a rule. But according to NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero, the competition committee is making it a priority:
The committee will introduce an emphasis on penalizing players for any illegal use of the helmet, presenting video and data as part of a message it will carry forward to officials and players heading into the 2018 season.
Ryan Shazier’s scary injury, when he lowered his helmet to make a tackle, is just one example of what the NFL would like to prevent.
If you’re interested in reading every proposal from this week, you can find them all right here.