Potential ejections on “egregious” hits

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2017 – 2:44 pm

Among the rules changes/updates made by the NFL owners Tuesday at their spring meetings here at the Arizona Biltmore was the decision to make as a point of emphasis the existing rule that “egregious” hits come with an ejection and/or a suspension even for first-time offenders.

That’s always a fine line. It makes sense, with the league trying to find ways to get safer, like banning leaps over the line to block kicks. In this case, the league hopes to have players more wary of going in for an “egregious” hit knowing an ejection may be forthcoming. (USA Today quoted Giants president John Mara as saying there were only about four such plays last year.) The problem, of course, is that for the player it isn’t always easy to make that call in the moment — like when Deone Bucannon, money linebacker, hit Bengals receiver A.J. Green in 2015, wasn’t penalized but was later fined for the hit. Bucannon had a similar bang-bang play against the Chargers in the 2016 preseason, but that was deemed clean.

“If you’re over there tip-toeing and trying to do everything perfect, that’s going to make you a worse player,” Bucannon said during 2016 training camp. “I’m not thinking about, ‘Oh, man, what the consequences are.’ I’ve got so many things I need to think about. I need to think about what I’m doing within the defense to help my team win the game. And then on top of that, you expect me in point-one second to (decide where to deliver a hit)? I can’t think about all that at the same time, but I’m going to train my body through practice so I can understand.”

D.J. Swearinger, now in Washington, had a couple of big hits this past season, but they were clean. It is still possible to do such things. The first time a player is actually booted for a hit, however, will make for a huge story.

UPDATE: Competition committee chairman Rich McKay emphasized that the consideration today was meant as a deterrent. “Don’t take that there could be a suspension for first-time offenders as ‘We’ve got a problem,’ ” McKay said. “We had three or four plays we showed the union, showed our coaches, and we recommended, that if a player isn’t ejected on the field — and that’s a difficult thing, we don’t get a lot of ejections for football plays — we recommend a suspension even for a first-time offense. … We don’t expect it to happen a lot, but it was a point of emphasis.”


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Arians: Sideline video “helps bad coaches”

Posted by Darren Urban on August 25, 2016 – 1:47 pm

The NFL is testing out the ability to use Microsoft tablets and video on the sidelines, seeing what it could mean for the future of the game. Cardinals coach Bruce Arians noted they had them in the first preseason game against the Raiders.

“I watched one play the referee called holding and it wasn’t holding and I showed it to him,” said Arians, referring to a hold called on tight end Troy Niklas that Arians had previously complained about. The penalty negated a touchdown.

“I said (to the official) this would be your worst nightmare if I had this on the sideline,” Arians added.

That drew a chuckle in the press conference, but Arians was serious when he said he hoped video was never part of in-game use on the sideline.

“Helps bad coaches,” Arians said. “You spend six hours on a blitz (for your defense) on Tuesday, he can watch it … offensively you don’t run the same plays very often but defensively, you spend a lot of hours and time on a blitz that a guy can watch it on tape and show his guys and fix it in the first quarter.

“That’s not what it’s all about.”

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Tweaking the practice squad rules

Posted by Darren Urban on June 22, 2016 – 3:05 pm

Already, the NFL had changed their practice squad rules, upping the number of players allowed on the unit from eight to 10. At the time, they also changed the rules so that two of the players could have up to two accrued seasons in the NFL (before, it was no more than one.) That gave teams the flexibility to put a whole host of new candidates on the practice squad, if they were to pass through waivers once they were released initially.

The rules have changed again. There are still only 10 on the PS, but now, up to four players can have two accrued seasons. That doesn’t mean there would be that many, but if a team wanted to add a veteran after training camp just in case in an effort to get him up to speed without taking up a roster spot, this provides more flexibility. It certainly gives a team the option to develop a player for a couple of years without using up a roster spot, or a guy who played a year on the roster and just isn’t ready yet. It seems to help a team like the Cardinals — which has a deep roster and figures to cut some decent players — hold on to a couple of those cuts.


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On comp picks and TD “dunks”

Posted by Darren Urban on March 25, 2014 – 11:03 am

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.



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Whither the extra point

Posted by Darren Urban on January 22, 2014 – 10:12 am

There has been a lot of conversation of late about changes to the game (thanks to commissioner Roger Goodell talking about such things). It has included discussion about eliminating the kicked extra point. Now, I get that the extra point is basically automatic. Goodell said the change would just mean touchdowns would just be worth seven points — unless a team chose to go for two, which would make the touchdown worth six. Sure, more than 99 percent of extra points are made these days. But if it is so easy, why not just back the attempt up? Instead of 19 yards, make it, for example, 30 yards? Then it is still in the game and the difficulty is raised. If that’s not hard enough, back it up some more. I’ll also say this: The way most teams make their extra points makes a miss crushing a lot of the time.

So much of this goes back to the way kicking has evolved. Many think the goalposts should be narrowed or shorter field goals should be worth less points because of the high percentage by which kickers can make field goals now. To think, Jay Feely made 30 of 36 field goals this season — and many fans were ready to run him out of town because of it. That isn’t excusing Feely, because his misses ultimately were crucial to the Cards in a couple of games. But making better than 83 percent of your field goals over a season once would have made Feely the best in the NFL.

Back to the extra point. I won’t be surprised if it is taken out of the game, just like I won’t be surprised when/if the kickoff return is removed. There is a safety aspect to this too, and I understand that. If that is the reason you want it out, OK. If the reason it’s abolished is because it is boring, I don’t really understand that. Tweaking it somehow seems more reasonable.


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Considering a kickoff change

Posted by Darren Urban on December 7, 2012 – 8:01 am

Born out of the constant discussion to make the NFL safer and prevent some of the dreaded concussions that have obviously become one of the league’s top topics, there has been talk about changing the kickoff rule again — this time, taking kickoffs out of the game altogether.

Certainly, that would be a drastic measure. The idea this time comes from first-year Buccaneers head coach Greg Schiano. Schiano, who watched one of his Rutgers players, Eric LeGrand, become paralyzed when he was hurt on a kickoff play, devised this idea: After Team A scores, instead of a kickoff, Team A would then have the ball on its own 30-yard line (just like a kickoff now) but would be handed, essentially, a 4th-and-15 play. The team could either punt from there or go for it (which replaces the possibility of an onside kick). Fail to gain a first down would give Team B the ball wherever it ended up, just as if it had been a normal fourth down situation.

Schiano first floated the idea back in 2011 when he was still at Rutgers. It has come up again, and now NFL commissioner Roger Goodell has taken notice. Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the NFL’s competition committee (as is Ken Whisenhunt), said he thinks the kickoff situation will be addressed the next time the committee meets in the offseason.

There is a lot to consider with this, and changing the kickoff doesn’t necessarily mean going with Schiano’s drastic move. The league has talked often about how the most recent kickoff changes — moving the ball up, in particular, and other tweaks — have changed kickoff returns. Injuries are down, but so are electrifying returns. Touchbacks are way up.

Instituting the “Schiano rule” would impact the rosters. Punters would become more important. Kickers a little less so, now needed to just kick field goals and extra points (although some teams, who have punters kicking off, already have this situation). If you are a return man who can’t handle catching a punt in traffic, your chances of making it to the NFL decrease (you wonder what would have happened to a rookie seventh-round pick named LaRod Stephens-Howling if the current kickoff rules had been in place in 2009.) Patrick Peterson would get more chances to take one back, that’s for sure.

From a pure entertainment standpoint, such a new rule would certainly create an interesting wrinkle, not to mention making every post-scoring play look like a safety just happened. It seems a little too drastic to me. But at this point, given the way the league is trying to get safer, the game is clearly evolving, and that’s not going to stop.

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New rules instituted at owners meetings

Posted by Darren Urban on March 28, 2012 – 9:40 am

With all the overtime games the Cardinals played in 2011, it’s amazing that, had the playoff overtime rule been in place at the time — the one mandating a possession for each team, unless a touchdown was scored first — it wouldn’t have mattered in any of Arizona’s four OT wins. Three came after the Cards had held a possession on defense, and the fourth came after the Cards scored a TD on the opening possession of the overtime.

Nevertheless, the NFL owners voted to make the playoff overtime rule the regular season rule. Basically, a team can’t win on an opening possession of overtime on just a field goal.

The rule that was passed that will have a greater impact will be automatic replay review of all turnovers. Now all turnovers and all scoring plays don’t have to take up a coach’s challenge.

Tabled until further discussion at the owners’ May meeting were a couple of other proposals: One allowing the teams to have rosters up to 90 players in the offseason (80 is the current limit; teams had 90 last year because of the lockout) and the other would be to have an exception to the injured reserve rule. Currently any player sent to injured reserve cannot return that season. The new rule would allow a player to return after eight weeks. Also tabled was a suggestion of moving the trade deadline two weeks later, from Week 6 to Week 8.

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Tweaking the rules

Posted by Darren Urban on March 17, 2011 – 9:45 am

Ahh, some football to talk about.

The competition committee — of which Ken Whisenhunt helps as part of the coach’s subcommittee in making rule-change recommendations — is considering a couple of changes for this season, which will be voted upon during the upcoming owners’ meetings.Committee chairman Rich McKay, GM of the Falcons, was part of a conference call yesterday talking about the issues.

The biggest one (at least in my mind) is changing the kickoff scenario. In part because of injuries being suffered on kickoffs, the spot teams kick off from would be moved back to the 35-yard line (where it used to be) from the 30. In theory, more touchbacks, right? But the rule change would also mean touchbacks would come out to the 25-yard line instead of the 20. At the same time, the wedge block (which last year was reduced so only two men could come together at one time, instead of three or four) would be eliminated altogether.

You have to wonder if that would kill off long kickoff returns, or if it would make a major difference. One thing that would help returns? Another part of the changed rule would say the coverage players couldn’t start further back than five yards of the ball, preventing a major running start (and, in theory, cutting down disastrous collisions).

The other notable change would be the use of instant replay automatically on all scoring plays, so coaches would not have to use a challenge — which is already the way college football works. If that went into effect, the other correlating change would be for coaches to lose the opportunity for a third challenge. Right now, two correct challenges earn a third, but McKay said given that the third challenge is rarely used and because so many challenge situations would be eliminated because scoring plays will be looked at, it makes sense to just cap challenges at two.

A couple other notes:

— McKay said the infamous “catch all the way through the end of the play” rule would remain, meaning the Calvin Johnsons of the world would still be dealing with an incompletion.

— NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said even with the current lockout, in terms of the 2011 schedule “the plan is to release it as we normally do in mid-April.”

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