One of the things on the owners’ agenda during their current meeting in Atlanta are — again — tweaks to the kickoffs. The idea, of course, is to try and make the play a little safer, given that the rate of concussions on kickoffs remains considerably higher than any other part of the game. Most of the changes won’t be in-your-face. The wedge, which was already pared down from a handful of players once upon a time to just two, will likely be eliminated entirely (meaning only one-on-one blocks.) That’d be a win for the coverage team. Eight of the 11 return men would also have to be within 15 yards of the ball, creating a big hole beyond those players. More chances for mortar onsides kicks, perhaps?
On the other side, the kickoff team will no longer be able to get a running head start, which is a significant difference. They also must balance with five players on each side of the tee — so it’s a little easier to line up blockers.
The kickoff is a play that will constantly be evolving in the name of safety. There is no guarantee it won’t be eliminated for that reason somewhere down the road. That would bring a bunch of new questions — without kickoffs, rosters would most certainly be constructed somewhat differently. But for now, there will be more change, and then more evaluation.
Tags: kickoffs, owners meetings
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Next week at the annual spring league meetings, owners have the chance to tweak various rules concerning the game — including yet again another adjustment to what constitutes a catch, but more on that next week — and that includes pass interference. Defensive pass interference has long had controversy with it, especially because it is often a judgment call in the first place and because it can be so harsh. DPI, of course, is a spot foul, so a flag thrown 45 yards downfield becomes a 45-yard penalty even if the interference was ticky-tack or unintentional. It can swing a game.
The proposal out there is for DPI to be a 15-yard penalty only, as it is in the college game. The caveat is that officials would have the right to make it a spot foul for an “egregious” foul, or one considered intentional. That would truly be the ultimate judgment call.
The NFL’s executive VP of football operations just happens to be a former longtime defensive back, and Troy Vincent on a conference call Friday morning didn’t sound enthusiastic himself about a change. Vincent said NFL defensive backs are “too skilled, too smart” to give them such a loophole.
“You don’t want the defensive back being able to strategically grab a guy,” Vincent said.
Still, the possibility of a change wouldn’t have gotten this far without some support. In his heyday a couple of years ago, one of the strengths of former Cardinals receiver John Brown was his ability to draw pass interference calls deep downfield even if he couldn’t make the catch. Those were always important yards that wouldn’t really be seen in the statistics. In an NFL where the rules have long tilted toward offense and the passing game in particular, this might be a shift to make it a little more even.
Unless (until?) defensive backs do figure out a way to use it to their advantage.
Tags: John Brown, owners meetings, pass interference, Troy Vincent
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The annual spring owners meetings are next week, and as always, there will be a handful of new rules proposals to consider for the teams. One interesting one was noted by SI’s Albert Breer: “No team will be scheduled to play more than three away games with a scheduled kickoff time prior to 1:00 p.m. in the time zone of their home stadium (without consent).”
The proposal was created by three teams, all of which are (obviously) in the West: The Cardinals, Chargers and 49ers.
This has long been a point of contention for teams on this side of the country. It’s always a 10 a.m. kickoff for California teams (or the Seahawks) when they play a 1 p.m. game in the Eastern time zone. The Cards catch a minor break after daylight savings kicks in, since later in the season those kickoffs would mean 11 a.m. Arizona time as opposed to the 10 a.m. they face earlier in the year.
Regardless, it’s never been something that’s ideal. Last season, the Cardinals had four games kick off at 10 a.m. Arizona time (although to be fair, one was a London game that was 6 p.m. local time after the Cards were there a week), and two more that kicked off at 11 a.m. The rule would have been a big deal if three of those games would have had to have made their kickoffs later. The Cardinals started the first two games of the season last year at 10 a.m. Arizona time, in Detroit and Indianapolis.
This year, the Cards’ away games are the three in-division, and then games at Kansas City, L.A. Chargers, Green Bay, Minnesota and Atlanta. While K.C., Green Bay and Minnesota are in the Central time zone, they would still fall under this situation given that a noon start would be in the early window. The Cards have done that more than once, especially when the Rams were in St. Louis. If the rule passed, at least one of those games would have to be a late kickoff. Whether the proposal will pass or not is another thing entirely.
Tags: 49ers, Chargers, East coast, owners meetings, schedule
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The NFL universe came to town in late January when the Pro Bowl and then the Super Bowl were played at University of Phoenix Stadium. On a much lesser scale, it’s being repeated over the next few days. The Cardinals’ Tempe complex hosts the NFL’s Super Regional combine Saturday, which is the best of the best of five previous regional combines over the last six weeks — the players taking part are draft-eligible guys who were not invited to the main Scouting combine in Indianapolis. Sunday the facility will host the first NFL Veterans combine, which is around 100 NFL vets who are essentially working through a mass workout for all the teams.
The reason the Cards are playing host is because the teams were already going to be in town for the spring owners meetings, which go from Monday through Wednesday at the Arizona Biltmore. Among the highlights of the owners meetings will be work from the competition committee to potentially tweak/change rules, commissioner Roger Goodell’s press conference Wednesday, and the coaches’ breakfasts on Tuesday (AFC) and Wednesday (NFC) when each coach talks for an hour in an informal setting.
We’ll have coverage of the Vet combine and the meetings, including whatever Bruce Arians might have to say Wednesday.
— Finally, a quick congrats to my cohort, Kyle Odegard, who is getting married to Kelsey Perry Saturday and will not be covering any of these events. I’m on my own for the week.
Tags: owners meetings, Roger Goodell, Veterans combine
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About five weeks into the season last year, Carson Palmer approached coach Bruce Arians to talk about rookie running back Andre Ellington.
“Let’s make him a wideout,” Palmer said.
“No,” Arians responded. “We can use him as a wideout as a running back.”
Arians recounted the conversation Wednesday at the NFL owners meetings. Ellington’s receiving skills are not only well-known but have been discussed quite a bit, by Arians, Palmer and Ellington. “We are going to have a lot of fun this spring because his skill set is so unique,” Arians said. Once again, Arians talked about the Ellington workload and the fine line between riding the running back and not subjecting him to too much punishment.
“He is still not a guy who you will pound up the middle 30 times a game and survive,” Arians said. “He can run the football 30 times a game if you do it correctly, but you’d rather have him have 10 catches and 20 carries and let Stepfan Taylor or (Jonathan) Dwyer have the rest of the carries pound the rest of the ball up in there.”
(Noteworthy that Arians didn’t mention Ryan Williams as a possibility? Perhaps.)
Arians said the mismatches offensive coordinators find these days with tight ends used to be the ones for running backs, naming old-school guys like Ronnie Harmon and Todd McNair. “It will be fun with Andre, see how people play him,” Arians said.
One other Ellington note: Arians said the staff has to be careful with how much of the offense is actually built around the back. “You’ve got to watch that you don’t create too much stuff and then he sprains an ankle and you don’t have any offense because you put too much in one basket,” Arians said. “You still have to have your cinch-it-up, grind-it-out football.”
Tags: Andre Ellington, Bruce Arians, owners meetings
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The subject is not taboo in Tempe, that’s for certain. Super Bowl XLIX, coming early next year after the 2014 season, will be played at University of Phoenix Stadium, and the Cardinals — after 10 wins last season and improvement — have mentioned the possibility of playing in the game. Just last week, when cornerback Antonio Cromartie was signed and team president Michael Bidwill appeared with Cromartie at his press conference, both alluded to the idea.
“You look for a team that has been a big-time contending team that is coming up for a Super Bowl,” Cromartie said. “A chance to play a Super Bowl in your own stadium would speak volumes.”
But coach Bruce Arians had the ear of the national media Wednesday morning at the NFL owners meetings, and not only did he address the idea, he emphasized his belief in his team making such a run.
“I ain’t afraid of it,” Arians said. “We played well at the end of the season. If we can do that early, the confidence of the core of the team is back. Our leadership is back. We are talented enough. Talent is not the issue. I told them that last year but they didn’t believe me until it was too late. There is no reason we can’t be the first team to play a home Super Bowl. Absolutely no reason.”
Arians has never shied away from being confident, in both himself and his players. He sets the bar high.
Tags: Bruce Arians, owners meetings, Super Bowl
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A few things as the owners meetings continue in Florida and things around the Cardinals’ Tempe complex have slowed down considerably:
— The Cardinals, as expected, did not receive a compensatory draft pick, meaning they still have six selections in May’s draft (the seventh round pick went to Oakland in the Carson Palmer trade.) The first three picks are No. 20, No. 52 and No. 84 overall. It is not surprising the Cards didn’t get any comp picks.
A quick review: Teams get comp picks based on a formula that starts with the free agents signed and free agents lost from the previous offseason. Included in the NFL’s secret formula are the size of the contracts signed by those players and various honors they earn that season. So the comp picks for the 2014 draft are based on the 2013 offseason, and so forth. If you come out “negatively” in the formula and seem to have lost more than you gained in free agency, you get as many as four extra comp picks. Those picks can come at the end of the third round at the earliest and cannot be traded.
Looking ahead, there will be a chance the Cards could come up with a comp pick next year. It’ll depend on the rest of the offseason and what all these players do. Something to keep in mind: Only true free agents — those whose contracts expired — count in the formula. That means the Cards’ signings of tight end John Carlson and cornerback Antonio Cromartie will not hurt them because those players were free because they were released, not because their contracts ran out. On the flip side, if Daryn Colledge signs somewhere, he won’t help the cause.
So for those scoring at home, the Cards (in comp pick math) have added Jared Veldheer, Ted Ginn, Ted Larsen and Jonathan Dwyer. They have lost Karlos Dansby, Andre Roberts, Javier Arenas, Antoine Cason and Jim Dray. Veldheer signed a pricey contract, but so did Dansby and Roberts. It will be interesting to see how it plays out.
— The NFL will be tweaking a few rules. The biggest one is outlawing the dunk of the football on the goalpost. There’s been a lot of blowback on this, but truthfully, as soon as Jimmy Graham bent the crossbar last season and delayed a game while it was fixed, you knew it was a matter of time before the NFL said no more.
Also coming is the ability for a central replay booth based in New York to begin video replays before a referee even gets under the hood, hopefully to speed up the process and to let the official know for what exactly to be looking. The referee on-site will still make the final call.
Tags: compensatory picks, draft, free agency, owners meetings, rules
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The NFL owners meetings are underway at the Arizona Biltmore for the next few days, with the power brokers of the league coming together to talk about various topics and the league’s media stalking them on sidewalks and lobbies. From a Cardinals’ perspective, the last three owners meetings to come to town have coincided with two coach hires (Arians this year, Whisenhunt in 2007) and the splashy Emmitt Smith signing in 2003.
Comissioner Roger Goodell will have a press conference today, but we’ll see if there is more local news beyond that. I know the question keeps coming up — over and over — about Josh Cribbs, and there is again another report out of Cleveland today that Cribbs and the Cardinals are talking. To have it termed that he will “possibly” sign does leave the door wide open for nothing to go down. I don’t see the Cards taking on Cribbs unless it was totally on their terms. They don’t need a receiver per se, although I am sure they could fit Cribbs in in a role similar to LaRod Stephens-Howling if they wanted. At this point, when it’s done — if it’s done — is when it’s done.
And for those who still wonder, Rey Maualuga re-signed with the Bengals today. His door closed in Arizona once they signed Jasper Brinkley.
Tags: Josh Cribbs, owners meetings, Rey Maualuga, Roger Goodell
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