So much is going on these days as the owners meetings wrapped and the NFL announced new rules and changes and even hint at a new CBA. The question is where to begin? I suppose if I am going to travel a bit around the league, I may as well start with the news floating out of the northeast.
It seems Jason Taylor has the New Enland Patriots as his top choice of landing spots and according to Bob Kraft, it’s there if he wants it. Speaking at the owners meetings, Kraft spoke highly of the veteran DE who looks to lengthen his career by another year or two.
Many Miami Dolphins fans would love for Taylor to come back to Miami and finish what he started but deep down know that his relationship with Tom Brady and the admiration and accolades that he receives from NE coach Bill Belichick make that highly unlikely. Couple that with the Jason Taylor / Bill Parcells riff from a year ago and it verges on never.
For Phins fans though, seeing their long tenured and beloved DE All-Pro head to a division rival can almost make one sick. You can bet that the debates will fly if these rumors do indeed land him in New England.
The NFL has seen fit to institute some new rules. 2 of which stem from hits placed on two New England Patriot stars last season. The “Welker” rule, o.k. they really don’t call it that, prevents defenders from hitting a helpless receiver with their heads, arms, forearms, and shoulder. Last year, Welker was decimated on a cross field collision that left him motionless for several minutes on the ground.
The 2nd rule is another in the long list of “Brady” rules. Stemming in part from the opening season hit on Tom Brady that sent him to IR, no defender who is knocked to the ground can “lunge” at a quarterbacks legs. Now, a defender who is on the ground, must make every attempt to get off the ground and make the tackle. This will undoubtedly allow for way too much interpretation of the rules by the refs. Consider a player is down, gets on his knees, and crawls to the QB. Is that an infraction? I am sure Ed Hochuli will be at the center of more than one yellow flagged incident regarding it.
Other rules allow for incomplete passes vs. fumbles such as the aforementioned Hochuli who blew a call last year with the Denver Broncos and the San Diego Chargers. Loose balls on the sidelines can now also be reviewed meaning if a ball touches the sideline or has been believed to have touched, it’s reviewable. No longer can a team attempting an on-side kick commit an infraction, an off-sides or other. The kicking team will not be allowed a re-kick and the ball immediately goes to the opposing team.
In one of the more interesting and long time coming rules, a team will now be seeded for the draft based on where they finish in the playoffs. The example used by ESPN.com is last years “Wild Card” victory by the Chargers over the Colts. The Chargers who finished the regular season at .500 beat the 12-4 Colts in that game yet they pick before the Colts in the draft. Starting in 2010, that will no longer be the case as teams advancing in the playoffs will be slotted according to their playoff success…or failures.
Finally, the NFL instituted a waiver period for players in the first 2 weeks of training camp meaning a player that is released can be claimed off waivers by another team. Balls fumbled or tossed out of bounds to stop the clock or by accident will no longer stop the clock. When the ball is reset by the ref and he signals the start of the game, the clock stops.
In Buffalo, the Bills have been told that WR Terrell Owens will not participate in any voluntary off-season workouts but will be there for the mandatory ones. What a team player!
The Commissioner is looking ahead to the return of Falcons QB Michael Vick. The convict…yes I said convict…is due to be released from his Ft. Leavenworth prison cell soon on good behavior and the Commissioner will have to decide his reinstatement. Goodell has stated that he wants to see remorse from Vick before he makes his decision. Vick is likely to play outside of the NFL upon his immediate return to the real world.
Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones proudly announced that his team next year will employ the use of the “Wild Cat” formation. The “Wild Cat” was brought into popularity by the Miami Dolphins last season…on the NFL level but has been a college staple for years. More teams are expected to use the formation as well, including Miami.
I wrap this up with the Commissioner said that the NFL owners may vote in May as to whether or not the NFL will expand from 16 games to 17 or 18. The NFL would eliminate one or two weeks of pre-season contests. In the event of a 17 game schedule, the question comes in as to where the games would be played. Many feel that this would allow the NFL to showcase one game for each team at a neutral site or out of the country. A plan the Buffalo Bills likely favor.
An 18 game schedule would eliminate the problem of finding a home for one game giving each team one extra home game. However, with the NFL looking at expanding it’s market, some team/s will still play that game out of the country as they do now. Nothing will be done however until both the NFL and the NFLPA decided to sit down and hammer out a new CBA, something that talk of a longer season indicates is on the horizon.