No one should be surprised to learn that the NFL owners rejected any and all of the “major” rule changes proposed by teams and adopted a handful of rule changes that tinker around the margins of the games. For example, the onside kick will not be replaced by a single “4th and 15 play”. Here are some of the changes for 2021 – – and presumably beyond:
- In onside kick situations, the receiving team can only have 9 players within 10 yards of the boundary line at which a kickoff becomes a free ball. In the past, teams had chosen to line up 10 – – or even 11 men – – in such situations. [Special Teams’ coaches will have to go back to their drawing boards…]
- It is now official; there will be no overtime periods in Exhibition Games. The only people who might care about that rule change are folks who wager on NFL Exhibition Games. [Let me catch my breath here…]
- They adopted a new rule that will allow running backs, wide receivers, tight ends, linebackers and defensive backs to wear uniforms with single digits. [Indeed, there was a rule against such a thing until now…]
- They formally instituted the 17-game regular season schedule that we have known for weeks was going to be the case starting in 2021. [$$$…]
- There will be “expanded communications” between replay officials and other game officials with the on-field crew when there is “objective information” that needs to be brought to the attention of the on-field crew. [I smell more game interruptions on the horizon here…]
- Double passes had already been disallowed but starting in 2021, the defense will not need to decide to take the penalty or take the loss of down. Starting in 2021, it will be an automatic loss of down. [Since this sort of play happens about once every two seasons, I doubt this will have cosmic implications…]
Now, let me posit a bargaining point for the owners and the players that will bring a plus to both sides and deliver a minus to both sides:
- The players agree to expand the regular season schedule to 18 games and the owners agree to cut the Exhibition Game schedule to 2 Exhibition Games per season.
One plus for the players is that the total number of fames is reduced from 21 today to 20 under my proposal. Another plus for the players is more league-wide revenue which translates into an increased salary cap and salary floor. One minus for the players is that there is indeed an extra regular season game on the schedule and players have not been warm to that idea for a while now.
One plus for the owners is more revenue as they get to “sell more inventory” to their “broadcast partners”. Another plus is by reducing the number of Exhibition Games they also reduce the potential for a long-term injury to a player that could result in paying that player a contract guarantee without deriving any benefit from that player’s participation. Exhibition Game injuries can cost owners sizeable sums. One minus for the owners is that they will forego revenue derived from the 2 Exhibition Games that are taken from the schedule.
At the moment, the owners and players are in a spitting contest over virtual OTAs versus in-person OTAs all of which are defined in the CBA as “voluntary activities”. That level of pettiness does not portend any likelihood for meaningful and serious negotiations along the lines outlined here. But one can hope…
Over the past week or so, the breathless pre-Draft news dealt with where Justin Fields fit into various team plans. Some reports had him slipping way down in the first round of the draft; other reports had him being a long shot for the overall #2 pick by the Jets but a potential pick at #3 by the Niners. Yesterday, a report surfaced that may shed some light on the disparity of reporting:
- Justin Fields informed NFL teams that he is managing epilepsy.
According to reports, other members of Fields’ family have suffered from epileptic seizures in their youth, but many have outgrown them as they matured. Justin Fields is managing the seizures with known medications and he asserts that he has never had a seizure on a football field. He also asserted that the seizure incidents have been decreasing in frequency in recent years.
How all this will affect Field’s draft status will soon be revealed. Instead of worrying about what team will get to draft him and which team will choose to pass on drafting him, I prefer to take this moment and wish Justin Fields good health and full management/overcoming of his epilepsy. I have no medical knowledge here but epilepsy is a “neurological condition” and football is a game where concussions happen. Is there a relationship there?
Moving along … Sammy Watkins signed on with the Ravens as a free agent in this offseason. As part of his introduction to the fans in Baltimore, he said:
“It’s time for the world to see the real Sammy Watkins.”
Excuse me; Sammy Watkins has already been in the NFL for 7 seasons and has participated in 86 games; he has been on playoff teams with the Rams (once) and with the Chiefs (three times). He has played with Patrick Mahomes for three years and been to two Super Bowl games in the past two seasons. And now, I am supposed to believe that the real Sammy Watkins has yet to emerge?
Finally, since today’s rant has touched on a variety of NFL-related issues, let me close with this item from Dwight Perry of the Seattle Times:
“Marshawn Lynch and Dr. Anthony Fauci appeared together on a vaccination info video?
“Eat your hearts out, Felix and Oscar.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………