The 2010 NFL Annual Meeting Begins

Commissioner Roger Goodell will be a “busy” man during the 2010 NFL Annual Meeting this week

I still cannot fathom how anyone can think that nothing goes on in the National Football League after the Super Bowl and before the regular season begins in September.  Sure there is not any on-field game action after the Super Bowl, but everyone always needs to remember, “The NFL Never Sleeps”.  To accentuate that point, every fan should have their eyes focused on Orlando, Florida – of all places — this week.  No there will not be more Super Bowl champion New Orleans Saints players celebrating at Disney World.  The event that will take center stage is the 2010 NFL Annual Meeting from March 21st to March 24th.

The annual league meeting, which is basically a three-day conference for NFL powerbrokers, definitely deserves attention.  As “hot” topics from possible competition rule changes to labor relations to overtime rules will be all discussed in great detail.  The headliner at the annual league meeting will be NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who will address the owners on Monday morning with the state of the league and most importantly you can expect him to be talking about labor relations between the NFL and its players. 

Even though the owners and players are definitely not seeing eye-to-eye right now on several items, specifically a player payout of 60% of revenues according to the owners.  Hopefully Goodell and DeMaurice Smith, head of the NFL Players’ Association, can hammer out a new deal for “the good of game” before the current CBA expires in March 2011.  Fox Sports analyst Jimmy Johnson was right when he said of a possible lockout in 2011, “I think there’s too much money at stake. Everybody involved, owners, players, everybody understands it’s in everybody’s best interest to get a new CBA done”.

Other topics that are sure to be discussed in hotel board rooms and lobby are listed below.  But remember, any vote needs at least 24 of the 32 NFL owners to be in agreement.

Sudden Death Rules – Ever since the New Orleans Saints defeated the Minnesota Vikings 31-28 in overtime of the 2009 NFC Championship Game.  With the game-winning points coming via a field goal on the Saints’ first possession after winning the coin toss, everyone wants to talk OT.  “In the last four or five years, sometimes we have not proposed anything [to change the overtime format] because we’ve thought, ‘Well, if it’s not going to get enough votes, let’s not propose it,’ ” Atlanta Falcons president McKay said during a conference call with reporters. “This year I think we came back with the idea that we need to go back and look at it because the statistics are so compelling and we need to get the discussion going again.”

According to McKay, between 1974 and 1993 the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time, and the team that lost the coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time. Since 1994, McKay said, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 59.8 percent of the time, while the team that lost the coin toss won the game only 38.5 percent of the time. Of course the competition committee is blaming the increase in coin-toss teams winning in OT on my “favorite” players, field goal kickers, saying are more accurate than ever — made 84.5% of overall field goal attempts in ‘08..

Here is the new overtime plan that will need to be discussed:

  • Proposing a rule on the modification of the sudden death procedure in overtime for the playoffs, and Super Bowl, but not the regular season. There will be an opportunity to possess in the event the first team with the ball does not score a touchdown.
  • The club that gets the opening possession of overtime could win the game by scoring a touchdown. If that team gets a field goal, the other club would get a possession and would have a chance to win with a touchdown or tie with a field goal. If that team gets a tying field goal, the game would be sudden death from then on. If neither team scores on its first possession of overtime, the game would proceed on a sudden-death basis.

Player safety rules – The league owners are going to discuss a number of recommendations and rules proposals around “protecting” players.  The main rules that will surely cause the most discussion will probably be around protecting a defenseless player. 

a)       More rules for protecting “defenseless” receivers — Giving additional protection to the receiver even after the receiver has caught the ball. Possible rule change could protect the receiver until he has an opportunity to defend himself from hits to the head by defenders launching upwards towards his head.

b)       Long Snappers protected — Protecting long snappers more on field goal tries and punts.  Proposing that no one can line up within the frame of the body of the snapper to try to give him an opportunity to get his head up and get himself protected.

c)       No Helmet Rule — Proposing a rule that creates the ball being dead if a runner loses or has his helmet come off during a play, which is a college rule they’ve had and used.  The league watched tape where there are instances where players are running in the field of play without their helmet.  In our mind their mind it was not a safe situation. 

d)       Possibly more unnecessary roughness legislation – Not only the defenseless player legislation will be looked at, the league is looking into other in-game unnecessary roughness situations.  I have heard as many as possibly seven other playing rules. Some of them are smaller and others will be based on last year’s play. 

e)       Ball hitting a scoreboard revisited — One bigger rule that will be looked at further is the 2009 “dead” ball rules established last year after the Cowboys Stadium pre-season punting situation.  In case you didn’t know, the Cowboys have a huge scoreboard that is 90 Feet above the playing field that was hit in warm-ups and during a preseason game.  So before the start of the 2009 Regular season “Dead Ball” rules were put in place, but luckily during the regular season no punts hit the score board.

f)        Dead ball fouls to be looked into — On the offense, currently dead ball fouls do not have the ability to carry over to the second half and/or overtime from the fourth quarter – See Flozelle Adams’ incident from 2009 where he was able to play in the 2nd half even after some mischief before halftime.  The league is proposing that those could be carried over on offense and defense too.

g)       Instant replay on last play – The league is proposing a rule a rule change for instant replay with respect to the game clock on the last play.  This was put in for the 2009 playoffs and the NFL wants to review the rule and possibly clean it up.

Windows and Curtains to be discussed – With newer stadiums like the ones in Dallas and Indianapolis having retractable roofs, windows, and curtains, the league wants to talk about how to handle stadium configuration (i.e. Interior Design). The NFL wants to standardize all that language to match up with the retractable roof policy already in place.  So home teams with windows and curtains will need to declare in their game configuration 90 minutes before the start of play.

Possible new numbers for defenders –The league will look at the rule on player uniform numbering systems to possibly expand the opportunity for players to wear different numbers.  The NFL seems to be acknowledging the fact that more teams are playing a 3-4 defense and you can have players who end up being both defensive ends and linebackers (ex. Philadelphia Eagles DE/OLB Trent Cole wears No. 58).  However the NFL better look out as their league may soon look like college football, where defensive players can wear more creative numbers –- Former Miami Hurricanes linebacker Jessie Armstead wearing No. 1 in college for the “U”.  And who could not remember the ill-fated fight by Brian “The Boz” Bosworth trying to wear his fabled Oklahoma No. 44 in the NFL for the Seattle Seahawks. 

More rules to the 10-second rule – The current 10‑second runoff situation via instant replay will be discussed.  Inside the last minute when a call on the field is reviewed and reversed and there should be a running clock, the league wants to standardize a 10‑second runoff.

Fans can also expect at the 2010 league meeting, positions on the Competition Committee to be filled and more discussion around NFL bylaws and resolutions plus announcements of some high-profile early-season games. 

Lloyd Vance is a Sr. NFL Writer for Taking It to the House and an award-winning member of the Pro Football Writers of America (PFWA)

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