Okay, so you already know now that any punt hitting the Double J’s Orgasmatron will result in a clock reset and a replay of the down. But lost in all the hubbub of that rule dispute are the notable and potentially far more important rule changes that the NFL is implementing going into this season. Let’s review, shall we?
No Wedging. Traditionally, kickoff return teams formed a “wedge”, a straight line of four or five guys forming a blocking wall for the returner to run behind. But, for safety reasons, the NFL has outlawed wedges for this season. If three players from a return unit are shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other, they’ll draw a flag and get a 15-yard penalty. In theory, this should make it more difficult for kickoffs to be returned for touchdowns or big gains. So if you see the Cowboys give up a handful of long returns this year, that means you should demand Joe DeCamillis be fired.
More important, 15 yards! Holy crap! If you don’t think there will be a handful of inadvertent wedges in the midst of this sea change, you’re wrong. And I promise you those brutal penalties will be called at the exact wrong time.
Fumble Reviews. In the wake of Ed Hochuli’s notorious botch job in the Chargers-Broncos game last year, the NFL has expanded which potential fumbles are subject to video review. But this change remains plenty unclear to me. Last night, the Texans fumbled on a play and it was ruled down by contact. The Vikings challenged, but the referee explained that, because there wasn’t an “obvious” recovery by the opposing team, the play STILL wasn’t subject to review.
It was no less confusing to me even after Tirico and company explained the decision. And it will be no less confusing to you when this vaguely worded rule change hits the street in Week 1.
The Tom Brady Rule. In order to prevent devastating injuries to the league’s precious Stetson models, the league has outlawed rolling or lunging at the QB’s knees in order to tackle him. You can “swipe, grab, or wrap” the knee, though. Again, confusion. If you want to wrap up a knee, you usually have to lunge towards the object you’d like to wrap up. Unless you have some sort of detachable arm, in which case I’d like to borrow your detachable arm to fetch me Yuenglings during the game this year. And lastly…
No Headhunting. Defenders looking to tackle a defenseless wideout can’t go for the receiver’s head first. That means, in addition to no helmet-to-helmet hits, no shoulder-to-helmet hits, no forearm-to-helmet hits, and no pelvis-to-helmet hits. That’s another 15-yard penalty. In other words, Roy Williams will have to retire from the Bengals now.
All of these rule changes are meant to improve the quality of play, but I promise you all of them will pop up at some point during the next 16 games to baffle and anger you. Don’t say you haven’t been warned.