BOCA RATON, Fla. - Player safety again is at the forefront of rules-change proposals being presented to ownership this week during the NFL owners meetings.
Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, a member of the competition committee that recommends the changes, said Sunday there’s “no question the biggest issue facing the league and football in general is safety, and particularly concussions.”
At least 24 of the NFL’s 32 teams must vote in favor for a rules change to be adopted.
Murphy offered his views on some of the proposals heading into Monday’s competition committee news conference:
On making all chop blocks illegal:
Murphy: “We looked at a lot of plays and there’s some really bad injuries. It’s not a play that we think should be in the game, but I know the counter there is it could really hurt the running game. It really gives the defensive linemen a big advantage, so there’ll be some discussion there. But I think when people see some of the plays, I think there will be hopefully a push to say ‘this is the kind of thing that we need to get out of the game.’”
On moving the ball spot after touchbacks on kickoffs from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line:
Murphy: “That’s something that’s relatively minor, but when we look at the films and we look at particularly the concussions that were sustained, the kickoff just stands out. It’s a very dangerous play. We’ve been successful, I think, with some of the changes increasing the number of the touchbacks, but moving it to the 25-yard line should help us have even fewer returns. You’re taking an exciting play out of the game, but from a safety standpoint, it’s really something that I think is a concern. College has it at the 25-yard line. That’s been a very positive move for them.
“One of the concerns if you move it to the 25 is that our kickers are good enough that they’d have what are called 'mortar kicks'; hat’s something that college has not experienced. We’ll see. There’s a lot of good discussion. These are difficult issues that I think we’re all trying to work with.”
On making permanent the rule change that last season moved the line of scrimmage to the 15-yard line on extra-point attempts:
Murphy: “I would hope that there won’t be much discussion there. It had the effect we wanted. We looked at 33-yard field goals, they’ll make about 94 percent and that’s exactly where it came in. I think it made games exciting.”
On increasing the number of replay challenges to three:
Murphy: “I think we’ll have a good discussion on it. What we’ve talked about in the committee, you really have to look and go back to the original purpose and intent of instant replay. It wasn’t to get every single call right. It was really game-changing plays where there’s objective evidence. We’re kind of really focused on that. The other thing though – the changes we’ve made over the last four or five years with reviewing all scoring plays and reviewing all turnovers, more and more plays are being reviewed.
“The other thing I would say, I think our perspective is the best thing we can do is improve the quality of officiating. It’s a difficult job for officials. Players are so fast now and so athletic. The other thing is we’re seeing things like for instance in the catch, no-catch – we’re seeing things there that 10 or 15 years ago you wouldn’t have been able to see the ball bobble when it hits the ground. So I think we’re comfortable with instant replay as it is now.
"Another issue quite honestly is the game this year was slightly longer in terms of the average game time. I think we have a process with the New York office talking to officials and moving things long. You add too many reviews you could slow the game down more likely than not, which is a concern.”