There won’t be discussion about what’s a catch, but here are five things to look for as the league convenes for its meetings Sunday-Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla.
Millions of fans and hundreds of players might be confused by what is and isn’t a catch in the NFL these days.
But the league says it knows exactly what one is, announcing last week that the catch rule will not be among the topics of discussion when the NFL holds meetings Sunday-Wednesday in Boca Raton, Fla.
“We’re at a good place,’’ Troy Vincent, the league’s executive vice president of football operations said last week. “We just have to keep applying the current rule and keep educating our partners, and the public, and our fans.’’ So expect more of a public-relations push from the NFL about the rule, but no changes to the rule itself.
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Here are five things to watch:
1. Meet the Press, hawks style
All 32 coaches are required to meet the media for an hour, with NFC coaches — including Pete Carroll — scheduled for Wednesday. Seattle general manager John Schneider also typically makes media rounds at the league meetings. For each, it will be their first comments since before the free-agency period.
2. Debating the power of the commissioner
Reports last week stated that the NFL is working with the NFL Players Association on a deal that could strip commissioner Roger Goodell of his power to serve as the final and deciding hand in doling out player discipline (such as that given to Ray Rice). That would serve as a concession by the NFL as it continues to work with the NFLPA on concerns the players have about how the league levies punishment. Nothing figures to be decided at the league meetings, but it does figure to be a hot topic of conversation.
3. A rule proposal that might be aimed at Russell Wilson
One of the 19 proposals for new rules that will be discussed includes one suggested by the Carolina Panthers seeking to expand the definition of intentional grounding — essentially making just about any pass that can’t reasonably be caught potentially grounds for grounding.
Asked to explain the proposal in more detail during a conference call last week, NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said he needed to wait to hear it presented by Carolina coach Ron Rivera to understand it fully.
The proposal comes two months after the Panthers played the Seahawks in a divisional playoff game, before which it was reported that Carolina “sought clarification’’ from the NFL on what is and isn’t intentional grounding. Seattle’s Russell Wilson has become particularly adept at avoiding sacks and was called for intentional grounding just twice in 2015.
4. Taking personal fouls personally
One of the other 19 potential rules changes is already generating a ton of debate — a proposal that a player could face automatic ejection for receiving two unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties.
It’s thought the rule is being aimed at preventing situations such as occurred last year when New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham drew three personal fouls in a game that featured a heated battle with Carolina cornerback Josh Norman.
McKay said last week that the league is also simply concerned about the rise of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties, which he said went to 75 in 2015 “from an average of 50 (the previous five years). To us, on the sportsmanship side, that’s what led us to this rule.’’
The proposal presented this week cleared up one concern, which was defining the penalties that would count toward ejection. Essentially, 15-yard penalties that occur during a play (such as facemasks) would not count while those that occur after (throwing a punch, taunting) would. Only two players would have been thrown out last season if the rule had been in effect (neither were Seahawks).
5. PATs, overtimes and more
Here’s a look at a few other rules changes that will be considered:
• Permanently enacting the longer point-after attempt that was put in place last season (specifically, snapping from the 15-yard-line). There were about five percent more missed PATs in 2015 (from 99.3 to 94.2) which the NFL said did the trick of making the PAT more of a football play.
• Eliminating overtime in preseason games. Washington made this proposal, one aimed in part at player safety (if not spectator sanity).
• The NFL is proposing that touchbacks on kickoffs be placed at the 25-yard-line instead of the 20. Again, player safety is stated as a major reason, as kickoff returns typically result in a higher percentage of injuries than other plays. Said McKay: “It sends the right motivation on the ball that is going to come 9 yards deep into the end zone, that maybe you take a knee on that play. The kickoff is a play that we continue to look at and we think this is a good change that motivates teams to make good decisions on when they are going to bring the ball out and when they are not.”
• Also set to be discussed are making all chop blocks illegal, expanding the gameday active roster from 46 to 48, giving each team three replay challenges instead of two and eliminating the roster cutdown from 90 to 75 after the third preseason game, instead just having one cutdown day from 90 to the regular season limit of 53 the week before the season begins.