The NFL has made a few rule changes for 2014. While much of the emphasis is on player safety, three of the new rules immediately invoke memories of the Seattle Seahawks’ 2013 championship season.
The league produced this video for players and coaches to teach them the new rights-and-wrongs on the field.
Seattle Seahawks cornerback Richard Sherman is part of a small fraternity: He can trash talk and back it up on the field. He gets into an opponent's head. A lot of other players have the gift of gab, but not the skill to put their play where their mouths are.
Then there are players who take the talk too far and make it personal. The league says it will have zero tolerance in this area and the behavior will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“We’re all professionals. You have worked hard and excelled for the honor and the privilege of playing in the National Football League. So have your competitors and officials. Respect them. No amount of emotion to give way to demeaning and offensive language or actions in our workplace,” said Troy Vincent, a former player and current NFL Executive VP of Football Operations.
The new rules video states: “The use of abusive, threatening or insulting language directed at opponents, teammates, game officials or representatives of the league is covered under unsportsmanlike conduct in the playing rules. This includes racial slurs, comments regarding sexual orientation or other verbal abuse. Actions such as these will result in 15 yard penalties and potential discipline.”
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Contact with receivers after 5 yards
The Legion of Boom is known for its physical play against opposing receivers. It’s part of why Seattle’s Super Bowl win was so dominant.
The NFL says contact between receivers and defenders before a pass will be a major point of emphasis and will be a 5-yard penalty.
From the rules video: “Defenders cannot initiate contact with eligible receivers more than five yards from the line of scrimmage when the quarterback is in the pocket with the ball. The covering official will recognize the contact, and then look back to the quarterback. If he is in the pocket with the ball or in the process of releasing it, it will be a foul for illegal contact.”
If a defender has established his position beyond five yards, he can use his hands and arms to deflect contact from an oncoming receiver. But, he cannot purposely move into the receiver’s way to create contact.
Reviewing fumbles recovered
This rule gained the most attention in the NFC Championship Game.
In the fourth quarter, Jermaine Kearse caught a ball at the 4-yard line and fumbled it while trying to get into the end zone. The ball was clearly recovered by San Francisco 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman, but the officials got the call wrong and gave possession to Seattle.
Under the old rules, the play was not reviewable. This year, the recovery of a loose ball inside the field of play will be reviewable. There must be indisputable visual evidence on the field to have the call overturned.
Although the Seahawks were the benefactors of the bad call in January, it didn’t help them. Russell WIlson fumbled on the next play and the 49ers ultimately gained posssesion in much better field position. But, Colin Kaepernick threw an interception two plays later, which led to a Seahawks field goal.
Other rule changes and increased emphasis
- For the first two weeks of the preseason, extra points will be spotted at the 15-yard line, making it a 25-yard attempt. This is an experiment the league is conducting to see if it’s worth making the extra point more competitive. Two-point conversion attempts will still happen from the 2-yard line.
- It will be 15-yard penalty if a player dunks the football over the goal post after a touchdown. It’s a favorite of New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham. It’s curious timing that the league adopted the rule now, after the retirement of future Hall of Fame tight end Tony Gonzalez, who really made it famous.
- Grabbing a receiver’s jersey or any other part of the uniform before a pass will be defensive holding, which will be a 5-yard penalty, whether or not the referee felt the action impeded the receiver.
- Quick or abrupt movement by an offensive player that simulates the start of the play will be a 5-yard false start penalty.
- Receivers can use their hands and arms to avoid or get around defenders, but cannot push off a defender. That’s a 10-yard penalty.
- The rule that offensive blockers cannot roll up on the back of a defender’s legs has been extended to include the side of the legs. That’s a 15-yard penalty for clipping.
- If a quarterback is sacked anytime during the game, the clock will keep moving. In the past, the clock was stopped until the ball was made ready for play.
- Referees who go under the hood to look at an instant replay will have contact with senior league officials to get clarification on rules.