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Making sense of the new rules

NFL officials laid out their explanations of the new rules and clarified a few more. Here is a bit of an explanation of their explanations. Since the Raiders lead the league in penalties nearly every season, Raider fans should be the most knowledgeable in this area.

#1 Hitting defenseless players

Illegal to hit a defenseless player in the head or neck area with the helmet, facemask, forearm, or shoulders. Also it is illegal to lead with your helmet on any part of the body of a defenseless player.

Defenseless players include a quarterback in the act of throwing a pass, a receiver in the act of making a catch or who has completed a catch and has not made a football move, a kicker in the act of fielding a kick, a player on the ground after a play or a player whose forward progress has been stopped, a quarterback after a change of possession, a kicker after the ball is kicked, and a blindside block. Violation will result in a 15 yard penalty.

That is quite a mouthful, I know. To clarify, it is only illegal if leading with the helmet. A defenseless player (not already ruled down) can be hit legally. A quarterback is also no longer considered defenseless once they tuck the ball away (you know, like Tom Brady did that one time).

#2 Launching

Leaving the ground before contact and leading with the helmet against a defenseless opponent. This does not include leaving the ground and leading with the shoulder — it only applies to leading with the helmet and only in regards to the above definitions of a defenseless player.

#3 Hits to the head of a passer

A hit to the head of a passer with hands, arms, and other parts of the body were illegal before but they have backed off of the previous rule to state only “forcible blows.” Incidental contact will NOT be a foul.

It is never great to put more judgment calls in the hands of the officials but in this case, it is a good thing. Before that, if a player even grazed a quarterback’s helmet while he was in the act of throwing, it was a near automatic flag. Best to have a judgment call here than to ask the players to completely avoid the helmet. That is much more difficult.

#4 New kickoff restraining line

Designed to limit injuries on kickoffs, the restraining line will be moved up to the 35 yard line (was the 30 yard line). Also no kicking team player may be lined up more than five yards behind the line. Violations of this rule will result in a five yard illegal formation penalty.

This will result in more touchbacks and is supposed to keep the kicking team from getting to full speed before they reach the line. We’ll see if it actually works. For now, it lowers the overall value of kickers like Sebastian Janikowski who have stronger legs than most kickers. With five fewer yards to kick, some of the weaker legged kickers will be able to get more touchbacks.

#5 Reviewing scores

Any play that results in a score can only be reviewed by the replay official. This will apply throughout the game and the replay official will look at all reviewable aspects of the play.

This will save coaches their challenge flags for use on other plays, though they will probably not care much for having the challenge taken out of their hands and no doubt bark at the official every time they think something needs reviewing. But it shouldn’t slow down the game at all considering the delay will only happen if there are any real questions as to whether it was indeed a touchdown.

If the play occurs outside two minutes of either half and does NOT result in a score, then the review must be initiated by the head coach. There is no change to the rules inside two minutes and overtime. That will remain in the hands of the replay official to review the play.

#5a Can’t challenge play after penalty after committing a foul that prevents the next snap

These fouls include delay of game, false start, or encroachment.

This will make it so teams can’t give themselves more time to see if they want to review the last play. If they can’t figure it out between the whistles, they either have to challenge the play on hope or not at all.

#6 Clarification of complete pass

In order to complete a catch a player must have a firm grip on the ball, then two feet down or some other part of the body other than his hands. After those two requirement have been met, he must maintain control of the ball long enough to perform a football move.

Players must also maintain control of the catch through the process of going to the ground.

This clarification is due in large part to the Louis Murphy catch against Kansas City that was waived off and the Calvin Johnson touchdown that was waived off. The NFL just wanted to have specific language to use to explain how they were right in those calls and any future similar instances.

#7 Offensive facemask

An offensive player may not grab onto a defensive player’s facemask. This has long been a rule for the defense but not enforced with the offense. The rule states that the offensive player may push the defensive player’s facemask and stiff arm but may not grasp the mask and/or yank on it. Violators will receive a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

The term “forcible blow” comes into play again here which means, again, it is a judgment call by the official. Expect there to be a few instances of disagreement as to what is forcible and what’s not.

#8 Horse collar tackles

Grabbing the inside of the shoulder pads or jersey and pulling down from the back or the side. The player does not need to be taken down to the ground for it to be considered a horse collar. If the defender pulls down and the other player’s knees buckle, it will be a horse collar. Violation to the rule will result in a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty and potential discipline.

#9 Chop blocks/clipping

Hitting a player in the knees from the back or the side will result in a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty.

The rule applies to players who are engaged with another player or who are being lured in by another player. This typically applies to offensive linemen. In this case the explanation was if the player committing the low block is two or more players away from the player they are clipping.

I hope this helps to explain the new rules. Let me know if any of this still makes no sense and I will try to clarify as best I can. Hopefully that was not the most exciting part of my day. Off to practice.

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