Besides having six playing-rules changes to enforce, NFL officials also will be cracking down on taunting by players
The NFL made six playing-rules changes during its three-day meeting in Orlando, Fla., that ended Wednesday, but most of the discussion about what will be different on the field moving forward dealt with player conduct.
Specifically, the league intends to crack down on taunting by players in games as a result of a spike in such penalties in the past two seasons.
"After looking at a lot of tape and after talking and consulting with different entities – the coaches subcommittee, the (NFL) Players Association and others – we agreed that we have an issue on the field," St. Louis Rams coach and NFL Competition Committee member Jeff Fisher told reporters in Orlando Wednesday. "We agreed that we are going to get it under control as soon as we possibly can."
According to Fisher, taunting penalties increased from nine in 2012 to 34 last year.
"And we are going to effect change immediately and that change will be effected as early as the OTAs when players come back (to team facilities)," Fisher said. "We've got to change our conduct on the field. We've got to bring the element of respect in its highest level back to our game.
"We are going to clean the game up on the field between the players. The in-your-face taunting, those types of things ... the language, it's all in the book, it's all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There is no change in the rule; we are going to enforce the current rule."
In addition, NFL owners passed the following changes to the playing rules:
Uprights have been extended by five feet. This will, theoretically, help remove some guesswork of determining whether a kick that sails directly above an upright is good.
During replay reviews, the referee will consult with members of the NFL officiating department at the command center in New York. This is designed to streamline the review process and expedite it by having officiating staffers begin reviewing a play before the referee reaches the sideline monitor. The referee will still make the final call, but it will be in agreement with what also has been concluded by NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino.
The rule that says a blocker isn't allowed to hit an opponent in the back of the legs now includes language that also prohibits players from getting rolled up on the sides of their legs.
As part of a reorganization of rules about what plays can and cannot be reviewed, the recovery of a loose ball on the field of play is reviewable. This was prompted by a controversial call involving San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman on a fumble recovery in last January's NFC Championship Game.
The clock won't be stopped on a sack.
Defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage will be enforced from the previous spot rather than from the end of the run or from the spot of the foul.
There also was an administrative change regarding the timing of roster reduction to the 53-man limit. It now will take place by 4 p.m. ET after the final preseason game rather than 6 p.m. ET.
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