SAN DIEGO – NFL owners unanimously approved three rules changes Tuesday morning in Indianapolis.
Each of the 32 owners voted in favor of amendments designed to increase player safety, continuing a recent trend.
The definition of “defenseless player” will expand to include receivers who have not “clearly become a runner” or had time to protect themselves even if both feet are on the ground. It also will expand to include further stipulations for kick and punt returners, quarterbacks and ball-carriers whose forward progress has been stopped.
Defenseless players can’t be hit above the shoulders with a helmet, shoulder or forearm.
“We saw too many helmet-to-helmet or shoulder-to-helmet hits where the receiver has just caught the ball and has two feet on the ground and has not had a chance to protect himself,” Rich McKay, competition committee co-chairman and Atlanta Falcons president, told The Associated Press.
Owners also voted to expand the rules governing tacklers launching themselves into other players. The definition now will include players who use any part of their helmet and those who leave the ground prior to contact in order to spring forward and upward. Tackles considered “launching” will result in 15-yard penalties and possible fines.
“It’s obviously a violent sport. We aren’t going to ever be able to eliminate that, but we’ve got to protect what we call defenseless players,” said Western Region Supervisor of Officials Bill Vinovich, in San Diego to provide the Chargers’ coaching staff detailed explanations on another round of rules changes approved by owners earlier in the offseason.
The third change approved Tuesday clarifies the rule prohibiting blows to the head of quarterbacks. Accidental glances that are not considered “forcible” blows will no longer be penalized.“It’s something that we’ve spent a lot of time with as general managers and coaches and I think they’ll work real well,” Head Coach Norv Turner said of the changes.