At the annual Spring League Meeting in May, there are many rule changes of a variety proposed by team owners and the competition committee. It takes a majority vote (24 out of 32 owners) and approval from Commissioner Roger Goodell and the league office in order for a new rule to be implemented or changed. Some new rules might do the game some good in the long term. But a handful are quite questionable and this year is no different. With that said, here are three significant rule changes that were implemented and what I do or don’t like about them.
Rule Change #1: Fair Catch on kickoff
This was perhaps the rule change that drew the most criticism among players and fans. The league just approved a rule where kick returners are allowed to signal for a fair catch from inside the 25-yard line and would then be ruled a touchback. The league’s reasoning behind this rule is to make the game safer and reduce the number of concussions on this particular play. Over the last three seasons, there have been a slight increase in the number of concussions on kickoffs: 10 in 2020, 14 in 2021, and 19 last year.
Not surprisingly, players, coaches and fans had heavy criticism of the rule. The most notable coming from Chiefs head coach Andy Reid, specifically talking about taking away the excitement of the game with this rule: “So you start taking pieces [away] — and we’ll see how this goes — but you don’t want to take too many pieces away. You’ll be playing flag football”. I couldn’t agree more.
My reaction: WHAT IS THE NFL DOING??? This has to be the worst rule change I’ve ever heard. Injuries, whether to the head or knees happen during the game, there’s no disputing that, and in my lifelong fandom of the sport of football, I’ve seen some ugly ones. However, the game is also about creating excitement and there is no play that is arguably more exciting than a kickoff return. With the league approving this rule, they are essentially taking away one of the most thrilling parts of a game. No one wants that.
Rule Change #2: Flexing Thursday Night games
The second rule change that caught a lot of attention is the allowance of certain games to be flexed or changed in and out of the Thursday slot. It is important to note that this only applies to weeks 13-17 and teams are required to receive notice 28 days in advance of the change. Also, any team with two Thursday night games scheduled during that time frame can’t be moved. The vote narrowly passed with a margin of 24-8.
My reaction: Is it necessary to make that type of change late in the season?
Although the rule only applies for a certain chunk of games, the fans are clearly the biggest losers with this because they plan attendance to NFL games MONTHS in advance and if a game gets moved out of the Thursday time slot during the month of December, how will fans be compensated for the schedule change, if at all if they already bought a ticket? Will they get a refund? Will they be able to hold onto their tickets for a game moved back from Thursday to Sunday? Once the calendar shifts to December, I’m interested to see how the league and teams handle this.
Rule Change #3: Emergency quarterback rule approved
The last rule change that I found interesting is the use of teams being allowed to have 3 QBs on the active roster on game day, meaning they can have one in place if an emergency situation occurs. In last year’s NFC Championship game against the Philadelphia Eagles, the San Francisco 49ers had the most nightmare scenario possible: starting quarterback Brock Purdy suffered an elbow injury. Backup quarterback Josh Johnson replaced Purdy, and he suffered a concussion. That left the 49ers without a QB. They lost the game to the Eagles 31-7.
My reaction: I’m glad this rule is in place.
Nobody wants to see a game where a team runs out of healthy quarterbacks to be able to play, especially during the playoffs. I thought it was nothing short of unfortunate to watch last year’s NFC Championship game with running back Christian McCaffrey playing QB for the 49ers. I’m glad the league decided to put this rule in place just in case the strangest circumstances happen for a team.