When the NFL's owners gather in Arizona over the weekend for the start of the league's annual spring meetings, there will be a lot of talking done about a variety of proposed rules changes, roster additions, and expansion of the playoffs. Steelers President Art Rooney II isn't so sure any of that will turn into much more than just talk.
The NFL Owners Meetings begin on Sunday in Phoenix, and what's always of most interest to fans ends up being whatever action, if any, the owners take on the rules proposals that have been presented to the Competition Committee. One unofficial count puts the total in the area of 28 different proposals to be presented to ownership.
"There is a lot on the agenda," said Rooney. "It will be a busy few days. As far as the rule proposals, there are a good number of them. I think it's fair to say that we like to wait and see what the Competition Committee ultimately is going to recommend. I'm not sure we have that yet."
If there is one area that could end up dominating the discussion just in terms of the sheer number of proposals, it's instant replay. And every proposal regarding instant replay somehow expands the scope of instant replay, which is something in which Rooney has no interest.
"In terms of what we see on the agenda so far, as you probably know, there are a lot of different proposals that have to do with instant replay," said Rooney. "I personally am not really in favor of any of them. In general, I just don't think we need to increase the number of interruptions we have in our game at this point. I think the instant replay system is working fine. Sure, it would be nice to have different and more plays reviewed, but you have to do that in the context of how many can you really fit into a game and not wind up with a four-hour game. If there are ways to improve the system, I think we are always willing to look at it. But in terms of increasing the number of plays that get replayed, I don't think that's the direction we want to go at this point."
Rooney also didn't sound too excited about changing the point-after-touchdown by moving the line of scrimmage back to make it a longer kick, and he laughed off the proposal that would create the possibility of a nine-point touchdown.
"I don't think we are in favor of changing the extra point at this time," said Rooney. "I still like the idea that Coach Tomlin threw out last year, to move the ball to the 1-yard line to encourage more people to go for a two-point conversion. It would make the decision a little more interesting. Again, I'm not sure there's a real consensus to do anything on that front at this point."
The nine-point touchdown proposal comes from the Indianapolis Colts and goes like this: if a team scores a touchdown and then is successful on a two-point conversion attempt, that team then could attempt a field goal from the 32-yard line – making it a 50-yard attempt – for an additional point.
"That's a little different," Rooney said with a laugh. "No, I don't like that, as a matter of fact."
One change Rooney said he expects the Competition Committee to endorse is the elimination of the kind of trick play New England used against Baltimore in a playoff game, where a player with an eligible number was lined up in an ineligible position to create confusion among the defensive players on the field.
"I didn't think it was handled the right way when they ran the play," said Rooney. "We have these rules where a player has to report (to the referee). The referee is supposed to make sure the defense is notified on who reports. I thought Baltimore had a legitimate gripe about how that was handled. Maybe this isn't the way to address it. The other way would be just to take more time to make sure that the defense understands what is going on. It's probably just as easy to eliminate it."
Another issue of considerable interest to fans would involve expansion of the playoffs. Currently six teams from each conference qualify, with the top two seeds in each conference earning a bye through the Wild Card Round and into the Divisional Playoff Round.
An expansion of one team per conference would set up a situation where six games would have to be staged during Wild Card Weekend, instead of the four now played. Accommodations would have to be made with the networks, which would want each game to be broadcast nationally and without any other NFL games as competition.
"I think we've always said (playoff expansion) is something that's worth considering," said Rooney. "But the details of it, when would the game get scheduled? Monday night is one of the possibilities, which I don't think is a great alternative. The idea is OK, it's just that when you get down to exactly how does it work, it gets a little complicated.
Rooney then expanded on what he saw as the complications.
"That's not ideal for the league to have a team that's going to play on Monday night and then have to come back the next week and play on a short week, where even on a Saturday is a possibility," said Rooney. "That's a complication that, there again, we need to figure it out. The (new expanded) college playoff piece of it is sort of in the mix there in terms of when does that game get played? It's part of the discussion."
There will be a lot of that going on during the next several days in Phoenix, and it remains to be seen how much of the discussion on all of these issues leads to actual change.