The NFL announced multiple rule changes at the conclusion of the annual owners meetings in Arizona on Wednesday, on top of the safety-oriented rule changes that were announced Tuesday. Among them was a change to the eligible receivers rule, which was altered after a proposal from the Baltimore Ravens. The new rules say that an eligible receiver who reports as ineligible must line up within the tackle box.
This rule is essentially in direct response to the playoff game between the aforementioned Ravens and the New England Patriots. The Ravens' team website was quick to post on the rule change, referring to the Patriots' usage of ineligible receivers as a "trick" they used against Baltimore.
On three plays in their Divisional round win over the Ravens, the Patriots had five players on the line and made another player who was usually eligible on the play ineligible. New England managed to put up 41 yards on those plays, taking advantage of Baltimore's confusion on who they need to cover. The Ravens felt like they got a raw deal, but the rule is changed going forward. Now it should be very clear who is and is not eligible.
The league also announced other changes on Wednesday, including:
- Unsportsmanlike conduct fouls at the end of a half can be applied to the ensuing kickoff, meaning they also carry over into overtime. Previously, these calls did not carry over.
- Linebackers are now permitted to wear jersey numbers 40-49 in addition to 50-99 and 90-99.
- Venues with retractable roofs that were closed for the first half of the game may be opened for the second half of the game, provided a whole lot of paperwork is filled out 90 minutes before kickoff.
- Players can return from the physically unable to perform list on the sixth calendar day prior to the club's seventh regular season game, just so long as they do not participate in a Week 6 game. This is to make it more fair for teams that play a Thursday game for their seventh game.
- Teams are now allowed to designate one player eligible to return to the active roster from reserve/injured after 4 p.m. ET on the day following the final roster cutdowns.
One of the notable rules that didn't get passed this year was the overtime proposal set forth by the Chicago Bears. The rule would have made it so both teams are guaranteed possession in overtime. Currently, if the first team scores a touchdown, the game is over, but both teams get a chance to possess the ball if the first team either kicks a field goal or doesn't score. After one possession, it's sudden death.
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