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New NFL Rule Changes Come From Owners' Meeting

Steven Covelman |
March 28, 2012 | 4:27 p.m. PDT

Staff Writer

The new overtime rules -- debuted last year in the playoffs -- are enacted full-time. (Mark Botham/Creative Commons)
The new overtime rules -- debuted last year in the playoffs -- are enacted full-time. (Mark Botham/Creative Commons)
At the NFL owners' meeting in Palm Beach, Fla., team owners voted to make a few changes to the NFL rule book. Here is a look at the rules that were passed, rejected, and tabled to be addressed at a later time.


  • Playoff overtime rules will now be applied to regular season games.  Now, a team can not simply kick a field goal to clinch a win in the opening possession of overtime. Should such a scenario occur, the opposing team will get the chance to respond with a drive of their own.  
  • If a player kicks a loose ball and is flagged for it, his team will be penalized with a loss of a down. This rule is being adopted from college football. 
  • The NFL has also chosen to add college football's rule for too many men on the field. If a team has too many men on te offensive side of the ball and is lined up for more than three seconds, a dead ball penalty of five yards will be applied.  On the defensive side, too many men on the field, combined with an imminent snap, will result in a penalty. 
  • The previously implemented "defenseless player rule" has been expanded to protect defensive players on crackback blocks, making hits on the head or neck illegal.
  • Turnovers will now be automatically reviewed via instant replay, just like scoring plays. Now, coaches will no longer have to challenge questionable turnovers.
  • Roster rules for teams playing on Thanksgiving or Christmas have been modified. Teams playing at night on either of these days can now make roster changes prior to 4 p.m. Eastern Time.  
  • Giving the booth official authority to determine replay reviews, in place of the referee on the field. 
  • Removing the exception in the horse-collar tackle rule that allows defensive players to bring down a quarterback by the back of his shoulder pads or the inside of his jersey.
Tabled (Likely to be discussed when the owners meet again in May):
  • Proposal to move the trade deadline from Week 6 to Week 8. 
  • Proposal to expand the roster limit in training camp from 80 to 90 players. Unsigned draft picks would count against this limit, unlike before. 
  • Proposal to move the final day for roster cuts before games up to Friday night, instead of Saturday.  
  • Proposal to add an injured reserve exemption to allow a player that is on the roster for Week 1 to be placed on injured reserve and be designated for a return at a later date. The player can return to practice six weeks later and play in a game eight weeks later, rather than be out for the entire season. 
  • Proposal to add one roster exemption each week for a player who is ruled inactive because of a concussion.


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