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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, March 25, 2010

Safety comes first with rule changes


Associated Press

ORLANDO, Fla. NFL players should be safer during games thanks to several rules changes passed at the league meetings. They also might be playing longer in regular-season overtimes.

The NFL passed rules yesterday to further protect defenseless players, including ball carriers who lose their helmet during a play. Seven of eight overall rules proposals were adopted, then several owners said they also expect the modified overtime for the playoffs that passed the previous day to be revisited in May to include the regular season.

"It's a better system, so why not have a better system every game?" Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie said of expanding the new OT rule that allows a team losing the coin toss and allowing a field goal on the first series to then get a possession.

The key rules change for player safety bars a defenseless player from being hit in the head or neck area by an opponent who launches himself and uses his helmet, shoulder or forearm to make contact. Previously, those kind of tackles were banned against receivers who couldn't protect themselves, but now it will apply to everyone.

Also passed yesterday:

• During a field goal or extra point attempt, the defensive team can't position any player on the line directly across from the snapper. Previously, a player needed to have his helmet outside the snapper's shoulder pads.

• A dead ball personal foul on the final play of the second or fourth quarters will cause a 15-yard penalty on the second half or overtime kickoff. Previously in those situations, no penalty was enforced, although players subsequently could be fined.

• If a punt returner makes a fair catch signal and muffs the ball, he is entitled to "reasonable opportunity" to catch the muff before it hits the ground without interference of the coverage team. The ball will be rewarded at the spot of the interference, but there will be no penalty yardage marked off.

• When a ball strikes a videoboard (as one punt did last preseason at the new Cowboys Stadium), guide wire or sky cam, the play is whistled dead and replayed. The game clock is reset to when that play started.

• If the clock is stopped in the final minute of either half for a replay review, but would not have stopped without the review, officials will run off 10 seconds before resuming play.