By Tony Grossi | ESPNCleveland.com
The Morning Kickoff …
Time to reflect: At the NFL owners meetings, team executives and coaches can run, but they can’t hide.
Shuffling from closed-door meetings to their poolside cabanas for lunch and then back to meetings, where they discuss how best to divvy up their newest growth spurt in revenue, owners are besieged by camera crews and other media for thoughts on the compelling NFL news of the offseason.
“So, Jerry Jones, how do you feel about banning the N-word from the locker room?” is sure to be asked this week. “And a follow-up, sir. Would the Cowboys welcome an openly gay player to their team?”
Coaches are required to attend morning media sessions divided into AFC on Tuesday and NFC on Wednesday. Even Bill Belichick has held court at these sessions, during which he often goes off on tangents that can last for several minutes at a time.
This will be the first NFL meeting for the new Browns’ management team of GM Ray Farmer and coach Mike Pettine. It will be Jimmy Haslam’s second as owner of the Browns.
All three principals have separate interview sessions scheduled. So we may finally get some insight on the following:
* Why has Pettine and offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan not attended the pro day workouts of the top quarterback prospects? And will they attend Johnny Manziel’s pro day on Thursday in College Station, TX?
* Has Haslam issued a “win now” edict and scrapped the former mantra of striving for “sustained success?”
* Will the Browns pursue Mark Sanchez or Rex Grossman?
* Are there are more free agent signings to come?
It should be an interesting week.
Rules report: These are some of the rules and bylaw changes that will be discussed – but not necessarily passed:
* The Redskins want to return the kickoff to the 40-yard line. This would eradicate returns completely because just about every kicker would blast the kickoff out of the end zone and into the stands.
* The Redskins want to eliminate overtime in preseason games. This is such a good suggestion that it probably will be tabled without a vote because most of the good ones are.
* The Patriots want to extend the goalposts an additional five feet. This would help determine if field goals are good. Where was this idea when Rich Karlis’ field goal sailed over the left goalpost in Cleveland Stadium to complete Denver’s dagger-to-the-heart win over the Browns in the 1986 season AFC Championship?
* The Patriots want the line of scrimmage on extra points moved from the 2-yard line to the 25, which would make PATs about a 43-yard kick. Last year, only five PATs out of 1,267 tried from the standard 20 yards were missed, and four of them were blocked. The monotony of the play vs. the risk of injury has rankled Belichick. It’s likely the competition committee will recommend experimenting one week in preseason with a 38-yard PAT, originating from the 20-yard line. There is also discussion of eliminating the PAT altogether. Touchdowns would be automatically worth seven points. A team could try for two, but if it missed, the TD would be worth only six points. Coaches would never support this change because it would just expose them to more second-guessing from owners, fans and media.
* The Patriots want to add six fixed cameras to every NFL field to monitor the sideline, end zone and end line for instant replay challenges. Another Belichick personal crusade.
* The Patriots want to allow coaches to challenge any official’s decision, except scoring plays.
* The competition committee wants to permit referees to consult with officials in the New York “command center” on replay reviews. (Or a guy watching the game at a bar, who can tell better than the referee if there was a fumble, or a touchdown, or whatever. Eventually, the referee should be removed from the instant replay process, like in college football and the NHL.)
* The competition committee wants the clock to keep running after a sack, even in the final two minutes of a half.
* The Redskins want to increase the game-day active list from 46 to 49 players for Thursday night games (except the opening weekend).
* The Redskins want to increase the practice squad from eight to 10 players.
* The Redskins want to allow any player to return from injured reserve after six weeks. Currently, only one player on IR can return after six weeks; all others are out for the year. The old rules used to allow returns after four weeks. It was the Redskins (of the 1980s Joe Gibbs era) who abused the injured reserve list to stash players and resulted in restrictive changes.
Other points of discussion at meetings will center on emphasizing sportsmanship and encouraging referees to penalize players for using racial and sexual slurs on the field; improving the workplace environment on all teams as a result of the Richie Incognito-Jonathan Martin bullying scandal in Miami; and expanding the playoffs to seven teams in each conference, beginning in 2015.
The NFL probably spends more time and energy on reviewing its product on the field than any other professional league. Most rule changes are the result of three to four years or more of study, experimentation and discussion. Ultimately, the NFL usually gets it right.
Consider these facts: Last year, scoring per game (46.82) and yards per game (697) were at an all-time high. And yet the top five teams in total defense each made the playoffs and won at least 11 games. Those teams were Seattle, Carolina, Cincinnati, New Orleans and San Francisco.
Bottom line: It may be a quarterback league, but a killer defense can still win a championship. More likely, the best team will have both.
|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 46 voters for the National Football League Hall of Fame. Use the hastage #HeyTony on Twitter or email your “Hey Tony” questions to firstname.lastname@example.orgFollow Tony on Twitter @tonygrossi
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