Every spring, the NFL’s owners meet to discuss the future of their league — think of it as a billionaire boys’ club, only with less talk about golf and more about whether or not jumping over the line of scrimmage to block a field goal is inherently dangerous. On Monday, the group gathered in Phoenix to kick off its annual assembly to set NFL policy for 2017 and beyond.
The Raiders are moving to Las Vegas
The main topic of discussion on day one was whether or not the Raiders would leave the not-so-friendly, occasionally sewage-filled confines of Oakland for a new home in Las Vegas. Owner Mark Davis presented his proposal to push one of the league’s most storied franchises from its California home in order to become the second major sport -- behind the NHL — in Sin City.
With the financing for a new venue secure, NFL owners approved the league’s third relocation in the past two years. The Raiders will join the Rams (St. Louis to Los Angeles) and the Chargers (San Diego to Los Angeles) as the latest clubs to desert local fans in search of greener pastures and more lucrative stadium deals. While Oakland mayor Libby Schaaf worked hard to block the move — she even had pro-Bay Area letters hand-distributed to owners Monday morning — it was all for naught.
The vote to move the Raiders out of Oakland passed with 31 of 32 owner votes in favor. It was the outcome for which franchise owner Mark Davis had waited nearly two decades.
Mark Davis registered https://t.co/kueYxcd34z on December 25, 1998.— Michael Abromowitz (@FootballExpert) March 27, 2017
The transition will be a costly one for Davis and residents of Las Vegas. Public revenue sources are expected to cover $750 million of the $1.9 billion the franchise’s new stadium will cost. Davis will also have to pay an expected $350 million relocation fee to the NFL — though that’s a far cry from the $650 million Stan Kroenke paid to switch his home market from St. Louis to L.A. However, the team will still have to play two final years in the Bay Area, providing what will certainly be a bittersweet farewell for diehard fans.
The league is cracking down on dangerous plays
Once relocation concerns had been handled, the panel was able to move on to issues that would affect the rest of the league. Owners voted on 15 rules proposals that would directly alter the way the game is played and called by referees. These recommendations ranged from preventing players from leaping over the line of scrimmage to block field goals to chopping overtime down from a 15 minutes to 10.
The early returns from the meeting included some significant changes. Players will no longer be able to leap over the line of scrimmage in hopes of blocking an extra point or field goal attempt — though the original language of the rule was modified. Defenders will now face automatic ejections for “egregious” hits to the head, similar to the NCAA’s controversial targeting rule.
The owners also voted to make crackback hits illegal for players in motion on the offensive side of the ball before the snap.
The more ambitious rule suggestions failed to pass
Another high-profile rule change that failed to garner support was overtime reform. The league’s competition committee recommended cutting overtime periods to 10 minutes, but all the owners weren’t on board. They’ll discuss it again this spring:
Shortening overtime to 10 minutes from 15 minutes has been tabled until NFL's spring meeting, per source.— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 28, 2017
Another failed proposal would have allowed coaches to review any play or call on the field, bringing issues like pass interference and offsides calls under greater scrutiny. That wasn’t the only replay-related rule to get shot down. A Washington proposal to remove the cap on coaches’ challenges also fell short of passage.
And, sadly, putting a kickoff through the uprights remains impressive but meaningless.
Games should be shorter, though
But broadcast times should be shorter in 2017 thanks to another rule approved Tuesday. Owners unanimously backed a rule that will centralize the replay process to league headquarters in New York. As a result, coaches’ challenges will now be expedited, with final say coming down from a more consistent source.
Here’s the full list of the on-field rules approved in Phoenix.
2. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays.
8. By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.
9. By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only.
11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection.
12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.
13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews.
14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock.
15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.
Here are the off-field changes passed during the final day of the owners’ meeting:
Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals
4. By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only.
5. By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.
6. By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.
Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal
G-4. By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.