The NFL owners started gathering in New Orleans on Sunday.
The meetings, which will have a decidedly labor tone, will run through Tuesday.
The NFL owners meeting comes after more than 100 players, including Falcons player representative Coy Wire, from the NFLPA met in Florida last week for their annual meeting.
In addition to more comments on the labor situation and the league’s desire to return to negotiations, the league’s competition committee will propose major changes to kickoffs and use of instant replay.
Ray Anderson, the league’s executive vice president of football operations, and Falcons president Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee, held a teleconference last week to preview the changes.
PLAYER FINES: Anderson made it clear that repeat offenders will face suspension. “We need to be aggressive in disciplining players,” Anderson said.Last season, several players, including Falcons cornerback Dunta Robinson, were fined for hits to defenseless players, but none were suspended. Robinson was fined $50,000, an amount later reduced to $25,000.
“The emphasis is on head and neck hits and what a defenseless player is,” Anderson said.
The league will go back two years to determine repeat offenders.
MODIFIED KICKOFF: Because of the injury rate on kickoffs, the competition committee proposes that the kickoff line be moved from the 30-yard line to the 35 and that no player other than the kicker may line up more than 5 yards behind the kickoff line. The touchback on the kickoff would be moved from the 20 to the 25.
The committee concluded that there are still too many injuries occurring on kickoffs, and the new rules would restrict the running start a player can get on a kickoff.
DEFENSELESS PLAYERS: In addition to the kickoff changes, the committee will propose a clarification on the defenseless player rule to include receivers until they clearly become runners and to modify instant replay to include automatic review of all scoring plays.
The receivers will join the quarterback, returners catching kicks or punts, runners in the grasp, players on the ground, a kicker or a punter in getting additional protection as defenseless players.
They are trying to standardize the protection for all eight categories of the defenseless player. Those eight categories include
* the quarterback or the player in the act of or just after throwing a pass;
* the receiver attempting to catch a pass, which includes the receiver who hasn’t completed a catch or had time to protect himself;
* number three is a runner who’s already in the grasp of a tackler and whose forward progress has been stopped;
* number four is a kickoff or punt returner attempting to field a kick in the air;
* number five is a player on the ground at the end of a play;
* number six is a kicker or punter during the kick or during the return;
* number seven is quarterback at any time after a change of possession;
* and number eight is a player who receives a blindside block. So those are the eight categories of defenseless players. We just want to be sure that we write the rules very clearly and that all eight of those categories have the exact same protection.
“We also, within that rule, will add a category that will prohibit illegal launching, which will prohibit people from leaving their feet, springing forward and upward, and delivering a blow with any part of his helmet or facemask,” McKay said.
INSTANT REPLAY: The instant-replay proposal has two parts: A decision to review scoring plays would rest in the hands of the replay official, not the coach, and the third challenge would be eliminated.
NO RE-SEEDING: Re-seeding teams for the playoffs was discussed, but will not be proposed to the owners.
–D. Orlando Ledbetter, The Atlanta Falcons beat blog