By Tony Grossi
Morning kickoff …
Not this year: A radical idea proposed by Hall of Fame coach and NFL consultant John Madden to further protect quarterbacks will not result in a rule change this year.
Madden recently dropped a bombshell when he advocated that NFL quarterbacks should enjoy the same protection as punters and kickers and not be hit or touched after releasing the ball.
NFL rules-makers do not agree – yet.
Increased protection for quarterbacks is not among the seven rules changes to be considered at league meetings next week in Palm Beach, Fla.
Rich McKay, chairman of the league competition committee, said there was some talk of allowing quarterbacks to ground the ball while still in the pocket, but even that change was quashed. Quarterbacks currently are allowed to ground the ball only when out of the pocket.
“We have always taken the position that it is too much advantage to the offense at that point, that you are taking away from the defense the sack and the loss of yardage,” McKay said. “And so we have not moved to that point.
“It does not mean as a league we will not down the road, but I don’t see us doing it in the near future term.”
Refining replay: Ever since instant replay was introduced into the NFL in 1986, the league has constantly sought to perfect its imperfect system. Two changes to replays are on the table this year.
One proposed by the Buffalo Bills would remove the replay decision from the referee and give it to the official in the replay booth. This change would make the NFL’s replay process similar to college football’s. The point would be to speed up the process and eliminate the horrendous delay of watching the referee go under that black hood to review replays.
The second proposal by the competition committee would make any turnover on the field automatically reviewed by the replay official without needing a coach’s challenge. Scoring plays were similarly automatically reviewed last year.
Last year’s change still forced coaches to challenge controversial plays that were not ruled touchdowns. The same problem exists in this rules proposal.
If a field official rules no interception or fumble on a controversial play, coaches will still have to challenge for it to be reviewed. Stupid. Why not automatically review all controversial scoring and turnover plays?
This one makes sense:The NFL’s rigid injured reserve rules would be relaxed a bit under one proposal.
Currently, any player placed on injured reserve automatically is out for the year. A change would allow teams to designate one player to return from injured reserve in eight weeks.
As an example, if the Browns thought Eric Steinbach could have returned from his back surgery at some point last year they could have given him this designation and activated him when ready after the eighth week.
“It was directed to that player that’s a core, kind of marquee-type player that you may think has a chance of coming back late in the season and just giving you a little more roster flexibility to do it,” McKay said.
Bigger rosters, more time to trade: One proposal would increase the training camp roster from 80 players to 90, but unsigned draft picks would count as part of the 90 instead of being exempt. The roster cutdown would go from 90 to 80 after the third preseason game and then to 53 prior to the opener.
Another proposal extends the trading deadline from the sixth week to the eighth week. The idea would be to promote more trades among teams in playoff contention.
Ugh … that dreadful overtime rule: We love the NFL sudden death overtime rule and hated the change that guaranteed each team one possession in overtime in the postseason – unless the first team scores a touchdown.
Now the Steelers propose the postseason overtime rules be extended to the regular season, too.
Tony Grossi covers the Browns for ESPN 850 WKNR, ESPN 1540 KNR2 and www.espncleveland.com.
He has covered the Browns with distinction since 1984 and is one of 44 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.org
Follow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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