NFL Rule Changes

This new overtime rule goes into effect in '12, among other changes.

Josh Helmuthby Josh Helmuth

Two years ago NFL owners approved new rules for games that go into overtime. There was one caveat though, those rules would only go into effect in the playoffs in order to see how well the new rules would work.  Though there were no overtime games in the 2010 playoffs, last season gave us two games that allowed the new rules to be on display.  The success of the new rules were evident enough for the NFL owners as they will now go into effect for the 2012 regular season.

The rule states that both teams must have the opportunity to possess the ball in overtime, but only if the first time that posesses the ball doesn't score a touchdown. If the first team to possess the ball scores a touchdown, that team wins the game regardless whether or not the other team had a chance to possess the ball or not. If those teams are still tied after having each a possession, then the next score wins, essentially reverting back to the 'sudden-death' method.

The vote to adopt the overtime rule was 30-2

Also, all turnovers are now open for review. A similar procedure is already in place for all scoring plays.  A booth official will review all turnovers and has the ability to challenge the call on the field. Some concern had been brought up about making the game longer, but consider this…

After all turnovers and scoring plays, games go to commercial.  During that commercial break, coaches would look at the play and wait until the break was over before throwing the challenge flag.  So coming out of the break, viewers would then have to wait for the referees to take a look at the play.  With the new procedure, the review would most likely start immediately and the review would start taking place during the commercial break, often being resolved in less time.

Other rule changes include: teams lose a down for illegally kicking a loose ball, a player hit on a crackback block is now considered defenseless and the result is a 15 yard penalty, and too many men on the field is now a dead-ball foul, a rule which may have given the New England Patriots an extra five seconds to move the ball at the end of Super Bowl 43.

In a surprising move, horse collar tackles on quarterbacks in the pocket were not made illegal.  When asked about the decision, competition committee chairman Rich McKay stated:

"The rule was developed for the open-field tackle when a defender has the chance to do something else (in making the tackle)," he said. "He's also able to use the runner's momentum against him. We didn't think that applied to the pocket, didn't see the injury risk."

Pittsburgh Steeler fans may disagree with that assessment considering that was how Ben Roethlisberger was injured toward the end of the season.  But personally, I like how the owners actually used their brains on this issue.  That being said, if Tom Brady or Peyton Manning goes down next year the same way, expect this rule to go through next year.

Rules expected to be passed during the league meeting in May include:
Expanding pre-season rosters from 80 to 90.
Moving the trade deadline from week 6 to week 8 (I think it should be week 10).
One player per team that suffers a major injury can be named "designated for return".  If the injury takes place during the first two weeks of the season, that player would be eligible to return after 8 weeks on the DFR list.  This would open up a roster spot for the team to bring in a replacement.  Normal injured reserve rules would still be in effect for players out for the season.

J. Lance Moose is a contributor and lead football writer for CraveOnline Sports. You can follow him on Twitter @JLanceMoose, and subscribe on Facebook