The NFL has been holding its Spring League Meeting this week in Eagan, MN, and the Competition Committee has been busy during the first couple of days.
The flex scheduling policy for Thursday night games (submitted by the Media and Media O&O Committees) has been a hot topic since it was approved Monday.
But there have also been a couple of other approved changes.
Those changes will actually affect how the game is played.
THE KICKOFF/ FAIR CATCH RULE CHANGE
On Tuesday, NFL Clubs approved 2023 Playing Rule Proposal 16A. It will change how fair catches on a kickoff are handled.
The proposal changes the language of Rule 10, Section 2, Article 4b of the NFL rulebook.
Previously, the rule dictated that after a fair catch, the ball could be put in play from the spot of the catch.
The approved proposal adds the following language to that rule:
“unless a player on the receiving team makes a fair catch of a free kick behind the receiving team's 25-yard line, in which case the ball will be put in play at the receiving team's 25-yard line.”
During the League Meeting in March, there was a lot of pushback against this proposal. It has been opposed by coaches, players, and fans.
The rule could potentially remove the excitement of kickoff returns.
It could also potentially reward returning teams with a lot of additional yardage they would not receive under the previous rule.
According to League officials, kickoff plays generate the highest rate of concussions every year.
Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President overseeing Player Health and Safety previously explained, “Between the punt and the kickoff, there's a disproportionate number of concussions occurring on only a couple plays.”
The NFL also shared that 30 percent of ACL tears happen on special teams plays.
This is despite the fact that special teams plays account for only 17 percent of all plays.
Jeff Miller, NFL Executive Vice President of Communications, Public Affairs and Policy defended the rule change saying, “Sitting still and continuing to do nothing was unacceptable. And I think that's where the membership came down on this.”
OPPOSITION TO THE NEW KICKOFF RULE
Still, special teams coaches across the NFL continue to express concerns over both the rule and the data.
All 32 special teams coaches participated in a conference call last week. During the call, they shared data to support their stance that changing the fair catch rule would do little to prevent injuries and concussions.
Based on the data they shared, of the approximately 2700 kickoffs about 99.3% of them were “concussion free.”
Of the 19 concussions that occurred on kickoffs in 2022, 11 of them happened when the return man took the ball out of the end zone.
Only one concussion was suffered by the return man himself.
This rule change seems to be one step closer to the ultimate elimination of the kickoff altogether.
For now, it will be in place for one season. The matter will be revisited during next year's offseason.
THE EMERGENCY 3RD QUARTERBACK RULE
Another far less controversial proposal was approved on Monday.
NFL Clubs amended Article XVII, Section 17.3 of the Constitution and Bylaws to allow for designation of an emergency third quarterback on game days.
When teams establish their Active List for each game, they may also designate an emergency quarterback from their 53-player Active/Inactive List.
The following criteria govern the use of the emergency third quarterback:
- Elevated players are not eligible for the designation.
- The first two quarterbacks from the Active List must be out due to injury or disqualification, cannot be due to performance or non-disqualifying conduct
- If either of the first two quarterbacks are cleared to return to play, the emergency third quarterback must be entirely removed from the game.
- The third quarterback may return to the game if another emergency third quarterback situation arises.
MARKETING AND EVENTS
The following announcements have also been made during the Spring League Meeting:
- Green Bay will host the 2025 NFL Draft
- San Francisco Bay Area will host Super Bowl LX in 2026
- Two new clubs and four new markets have been added to the Global Markets Program in its second year.
- The New Orleans Saints will expand into the global market for the first time. They are the first NFL Club to select and be awarded the French Market.
- The Atlanta Falcons also entered the Global Markets Program for the first time. They became the fifth club to be granted rights in Germany.
- The Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland are the other two markets added. The Pittsburgh Steelers and the Jacksonville Jaguars have been granted rights in those markets.