There are times when change isn't necessarily for the better, and based on what happened at the NFL Meetings this week that seems to apply to what fans can expect on the field starting in 2012.
These spring meetings are the most likely setting for rules changes to happen, and there were some interesting proposals up for consideration this year. Right now, it appears as though what was done – and maybe more importantly, what wasn't done – will end up being an overall minus when football returns in the fall.
The Steelers sponsored two of the proposals – one to make the horse-collar tackle illegal on a quarterback in the pocket, and one to make overtime rules uniform in both the regular season and the playoffs.
The overtime rule proposal was adopted, and now all games will be governed by the overtime rules that last year were only in place for the postseason. Now, the team that wins the overtime coin toss cannot end the game with a field goal on the opening possession; in the case of a first-drive field goal, the other team would get a chance with the football.
The additional protection for the quarterback in the pocket was defeated.
"The committee doesn't think that the quarterback has the same risk as a runner, because of the torque issue," said Steelers President Art Rooney II. "When they are running, they get pulled down from behind, which is a more violent kind of tackle than if the guy is just standing there. I think it's one of those things where there is hope that it will be passed at some point. I think this proposal snuck up on them. If we can get the Competition Committee, at least some members, to take it seriously, then we have a chance."
A third item up for consideration would have changed one of the basics of instant replay. Ever since replay was implemented, all decisions on whether to uphold the original call or overturn it fell to the in-game referee. This proposed change would have added a replay official, who would have handled all instant replay reviews, with the stated reason being to reduce the time it takes to get through the whole process. An added benefit would be the availability of the best video technology in a booth, instead of an in-game referee trying to view replays outside at field level.
That was defeated, but then what was approved with regard to replay was that all turnovers will be reviewed automatically, to add another layer of delay on the normal flow of a football game. That means all turnovers and all scoring plays now will be reviewed, with each coach retaining his two challenges, with a third still granted if he wins both of the first two. The Steelers were the only team to vote against adding replay to all turnovers.
"That's why we have the coaches' challenges," said Rooney about voting no. "Now you're going to have a coach challenging gains of 5 yards instead of 4 yards, and things like that."
One proposal that was tabled until the May meetings was the exception to the injured reserve rule. Before the meetings began, Rooney explained that exception proposal this way:
"The proposal is that there would be an eight-week IR," said Rooney about the adjustment to injured reserve. "It would have to be a player who is on your 53-man roster for the opening week, and then any time after that, you can designate a player for the eight-week IR. You only get one a year, but if you have a fairly key player who has a significant injury, but not a season-ending injury, you will have the opportunity to bring that player back at some opportunity when he's healed."
Also tabled were proposals to expand training camp rosters from 80 to 90 players, and to have an exemption to the 53-man roster for one player with a concussion.
Summing up the meetings, Rooney said, "I think we had a lot of good discussions about where things are and where we need to go. I thought they were good meetings. The good news is we didn't have anything earth-shattering to decide on, like last year at this time, dealing with political issues."