Rule changes NFL owners will consider at this week’s meeting in Orlando, Fla.:
» Move kickoffs to the 40-yard line.
» Subject personal foul penalties to replay review.
» Eliminate overtime in preseason games.
» Extend uprights 5 feet above the crossbar.
» Move line of scrimmage for extra points to 25-yard line.
» Put cameras on all boundary lines for improved replay coverage.
» Permit challenges on any officials’ decision except scoring plays and turnovers.
» Ban rolling up on the side of a defender’s legs.
» Allow referee to consult with members of the NFL officiating department during replay reviews.
» Expand reviewable plays to include recovery of loose football on field.
» Keep game clock running after sacks, outside two minutes of each half.
» Increase game-day active list from 46 to 49 players on non-Sunday or Monday games (excluding Week 1).
» Raise practice squad limit from eight to 10 players.
» Permit teams to make trades prior to start of league year.
» Institute one cutdown to 53 players at end of preseason.
» Permit more than one player to return to active list from injured reserve.
ORLANDO, FLA. — The last thing NFL owners want is for pro football to become boring.
That’s one reason representatives of all 32 teams began gathering Sunday at the posh Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes hotel to discuss potential league improvements.
If the owners know what’s good for them and their wildly popular game, they will do something about the extra point, the most yawn-inducing play in any sport.
Just five of 1,257 extra-point attempts failed during the 2013 NFL season, which makes the point-after-touchdown kick virtually meaningless.
Changing such a long-held element of the game will ruffle some feathers, no doubt, and traditionalists will proclaim: “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”
But this is a sport that demands excitement, not a cure for insomnia. It’s time for a change to a routine that has become dull and predictable.
My first preference is to eliminate the PAT kick entirely and institute a two-point conversion attempt after every touchdown. I guarantee fans would stay glued to their television sets after a touchdown because every conversion would carry significance.
But even the boldest NFL owners can stomach only so much change, and that idea won’t be considered this week.
Instead, owners will discuss a proposal put forth by the New England Patriots to place the ball on the 25-yard line after a touchdown, which would force a kicker to convert a 43-yard extra-point attempt. Teams still would have the option to attempt a two-point conversion from the 2-yard line.
This proposal has considerable merit because it leaves a level of uncertainty about an extra point. NFL kickers have become highly proficient, so making the PAT more difficult would provide a much-needed level of intrigue to a play that has become as routine as breathing.
“I think there is that thought that with the extra point you need to add a little more skill into it,” said NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay during a conference call. “One of the ways to do it would be just the way New England proposed, which is move it back and add more skill to it. You’d probably drop the success rate down to 90 percent as opposed to 99.6 percent this year.”
If a team trailing by seven points scores a last-second touchdown, the pressure to convert a kick to tie the game from 43 yards would be intense. Perhaps a head coach with doubts about his kicker would go for two points and the victory, which would add more drama to the game.
What’s not to like about this rule?
Opponents will argue that it makes the game more dangerous. In an era when there is increasing emphasis on player safety, that might be enough to kill the proposal.
In theory, attempting a 43-yard kick instead of the current 20-yarder could invite more injuries because players presumably would have a better chance for a block and put forth greater effort.
In the interest of safety, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell trotted out an extra-point proposal recently that would award seven points for a touchdown with no PAT kick. A team could go for two points, but if it failed, the touchdown would be reduced to six points.
But taking points off the board seems clunky, which is why the New England proposal has more chance for approval.
However, three-fourths of NFL owners must sign off on any rule change so any dramatic PAT shift probably doesn’t have enough support yet.
“These things traditionally take time,” said McKay. “It is good this discussion is being had with respect to the extra point. It is what we do.”
If the 25-yard line extra-point proposal fails to gain enough backing, owners will consider a one-week preseason experiment this year when the ball would be moved to the 20-yard line after touchdowns, forcing a kicker to convert a 38-yard extra-point attempt.
Owners will also discuss narrowing the uprights, which would make field goals and extra points more difficult, but such a proposal isn’t expected to pass any time soon.
The NFL is clearly discriminating against kickers, who have become too good for their own good. There were 12 kickers in 2013 that converted 90 percent or more of their field goals and four more, including the Green Bay Packers’ Mason Crosby, that hit 89 percent. That’s a far cry from 20 years ago, when just two kickers went over the 90 percent plateau.
It doesn’t seem fair that kickers should be punished for their excellence, but owners are all too aware they are in the entertainment business.
Whether it’s this week, next year or sometime in the near future, owners know they have to do something about the extra point, because boring doesn’t cut it in the NFL.
— firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @MikeVandermause