The big news to come out of the owners meetings today were some new rule changes that could greatly affect the game we love. The two biggest headline-makers were the changes to kickoffs and the use of instant replay.
Let’s start with instant replay. The league will now require the booth reviewer to look at every scoring play to verify that it is actually a score. The reasoning behind this move is so coaches don’t have to burn challenges on scoring plays, thus allowing coaches to preserve those challenges for other plays. Coaches will be allowed two challenges per game, and they will be awarded a third if the first two are successful. I am 110 percent behind this change. Scoring plays are of vital importance, and they should be reviewed to make sure the call is correct. I like the fact that coaches can now save their challenges without feeling pressured to use them because of the magnitude of the scoring play. They got this one right.
Now, on to the one they got wrong. The other major change was the decision to move kickoffs from the 30-yard line to the 35. According to the league, this move will cut down on injuries during return plays. Touchbacks will still go to the 20, and there will still be a two-person wedge allowed on returns. This was a major mistake, in my opinion. Touchbacks are extremely common already, and with the added five yards, return men will be rendered nearly obsolete. I know the league is intent on limiting injuries, but this completely changes the game. I know the Rams haven’t had a significant return threat in years, but for teams that do, this could be a major blow. Starting nearly every possession on the 20 will limit scoring, which should be the opposite of what the league is going for. Returners like Josh Cribbs and Devin Hester have already spoken out against this rule, and I agree with them completely. This was a big swing-and-miss by the NFL.
In another less significant change, teams are now required to seek approval if they want to change the color of their field. That’s not a joke. If someone wants to go to the Smurf Turf like at Boise St., they have to go through the league first. I had to chuckle a bit when I heard this, but it got me thinking. How neat would it be if the Vikings had purple turf, or the Raiders had black? I could really get behind black turf in Oakland, but it looks like that dream will never be realized. I’m devastated.