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NFL has new rules set to debut in 2010
DENVER - SEPTEMBER 20:  Referee Pete Morelli and the Denver Broncos during NFL action at Invesco Field at Mile High on September 20, 2009 in Denver, Colorado. The Broncos defeated the Browns 27-6.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Yesterday, the NFL officials met with the local media to go over the new rule changes and “points of emphasis” that the league has issued for the 2010 season

Much of the focus was on the new “improved” overtime rule. In this new rule, if the team who receives the kick first scores a touchdown, the game is over. If the team that receives the kick scores a field goal on their first possession, the other team gets a “chance.”

The “chance” or “opportunity to possess” consists of a possession, kick off or punt directed at that team. What this means is that if a team receives the opening kickoff, drives down and scores a touchdown they win the game. It is instantly over. However, if the team kicks a field goal, they have to kick off to the other team. If the other team scores a field goal the game is tied and continues as sudden death.

Of special note, according to article 4 section g:

The opportunity to possess applies only during kicking plays. A kickoff is the opportunity to possess for the receiving team. If the kicking team legally recovers the kick, the receiving team is considered to have had its opportunity to possess for the receiving team. Normal touching rules by the kicking team apply.

Translation: An onside kick recovered by the kicking team or a muffed punt satisfy the opportunity to possess. So, if a team attempts an onside kick to open overtime and recovers it, then a field goal wins the game, despite the defending team not having had their offense take the field.

Other rule changes:

Increased restrictions on “launching”

A player may not leave his feet and lead with his head or shoulder into the head or neck of a “defenseless player.”

A defenseless player is defined as a kicker or punter who is standing still or falling backwards after the kick and is out of the play, a receiver who has completed a catch and has not time to ‘protect himself,’ a player in the act of or just after throwing a pass, a runner already in the grasp of another defender.

This will be a 15 yard unnecessary roughness penalty

Increased “roughing the passer”

A passer who is standing still or fading backwards after the ball has left his hand is obviously out of the play and must not be unnecessarily contacted by the defense through the end of the play or until the passer becomes a blocker, or until until he becomes a runner upon taking a lateral from a teammate or picking up a loose ball, or, in the event of a change of possession on the play, until the passer assumes a distinctly defensive position. At any time after the change of possession, if the initial force of the contact by a defender’s helmet (including facemask), forearm, or shoulder is to the head or neck area of the quarterback, it is a foul.

This will be a 15 yard “roughing the passer” penalty

Long snapper protection

This expands the 2009 rule change where a defender on the line of scrimmage must have his entire body outside the shoulder pads of the ling snapper.

This will be a 5 yard “illegal formation” penalty.

Play ends on helmet loss.

If the runner loses his helmet during the play, the whistle will blow and the play will be over and the ball spotted at that point. No penalty and the clock will not stop.

Allows reviews for balls striking other objects

If a (kicked or thrown) ball strikes an object not associated with the game (sky cam, guide wire, VIDEO BOARD, etc) in the midst of a play, the ball will be whistled dead and the play will be restarted from the previous spot with the clock reset to the previous time point. If a personal foul penalty occurs during the repeated play, it will be assessed prior to the new snap. Any other penalties would be ignored.

This is reviewable by the booth at any time or by coach’s challenge when available.

Dead ball penalties

If a dead ball foul occurs after time has expired for a half or the game, the penalty will be assessed on either the second half kickoff or overtime kickoff as applicable. There will be no untimed play for a dead ball foul.

Removes penalty for interfering with recovering a muffed punt

If a player muffs a punt, he must have a “reasonable opportunity” to recover it. The previous rule instituted a 15 yard penalty for not giving that opportunity. The current rule removes the 15 yard penalty and gives the ball to the receiving team at the spot of the foul. If there is illegal contact, it will still be called as a roughness penalty.

Alterations to the number scheme

  • Quarterbacks & kickers 1-19 (unchanged)
  • Running backs and defensive backs 20-49 (unchanged)
  • Centers 50-79 (previous 60-79 if 50-59 unavailable)
  • Offensive guards and tackles 60-79 (unchanged)
  • Wide receivers: 10-19 and 80-89
  • Tight ends: 80-89 (unchanged)
  • Defensive linemen: 50-79 and 90-99 (previous 90-99 and 60-79)
  • linebackers: 50-59 and 90-99 (previous 90-99 if 50-59 were unavailable)

The umpire has been moved from the defensive backfield to the offensive backfield, except during the final two minutes of a half.

Taunting– The competition committee has urged the league to urge better sportsmanship. This means that the officials will be quicker on the draw with taunting penalties.

Note: The Raiders tied for the league lead in unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in 2009 with 4. Baltimore, Denver, and Arizona also had 4.

The competition committee has also made it a ‘point of emphasis’ for the players not to make the exaggerated gestures calling for a flag. There is no penalty for this act, but if the league is watching it and the competition committee still sees it as a problem, there will be one soon.