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End of sudden death? A look at proposed rule changes

The NFL's Competition Committee announced several proposed gameday rule changes and changes to league bylaws last Wednesday. Normally, this is big news.

Since the announcement happened just hours after the "bounty" suspensions and Tim Tebow's trade, the possible changes got lost in the shuffle. With the NFL Annual Meeting kicking off Monday, let's explain what's on the docket and what it means to you.

1. Overtime rule expansion

Remember when the OT rule dominated headlines two years ago? This proposal would eliminate sudden death overtime in the regular season. Essentially, the new playoff overtime rules would be in place for the regular season if this passes.

ATL says: This makes all the sense in the world. Coaches want the same rules, strategy, and approach in the regular season as the playoffs. It's hard to imagine this not passing.

2. Instant replay changes

A) There is a proposal to limit instant replay process to the replay booth. This would eliminate referees going "under the hood" to view replays. It would all be decided upstairs.

ATL says: Frankly, I'm not sure why this wasn't the rule all along. The referee deciding the replays just wastes time and doesn't improve accuracy. Fans should be rooting for this to pass.

B) Another proposal would make all turnovers automatically reviewed, just like scoring plays and plays in the final two minutes.

ATL says: Coaches often have to waste challenges on obvious mistakes on turnovers. Some might believe that automatic reviews on turnovers will slow down the process, but I'd argue the opposite. Coaches won't hem and haw before making a challenge. They will be prevented from making time-wasting bad challenges. If the play is obvious, there will be no delay in the game just like on scoring plays. It will be automatic. The key is getting the big plays right. This would help.

3. Trade deadline

The Competition Committee proposed moving the trade deadline back from Week 6 to Week 8.

ATL says: It's a start. No fan ever says, "I wish there were fewer trades." This will promote player moves, but it doesn't go far enough. Not many teams are ready to give up on a season by Week 8. Like the overtime rule, this may continue to get tweaked and expanded in the future. It wouldn't be a surprise if the deadline got pushed back even further (Week 10?) down the line. The NFL trade deadline is usually a snore.

4. Roster exceptions

A) There is a proposal to add one injured reserve exception. Every team would essentially get to designate one player every season to bring back from IR. The player would have to be on the roster through the first weekend of the season, then sit out at least eight weeks total. They could return to practice in six weeks.

ATL says: This isn't so different than some ideas discussed for a potential 18-game season. It's a great idea. There's no reason that a player who gets healthy by the end of a team's run to the Super Bowl shouldn't be able to re-join the team if he was placed on IR early in the year.

B) Another proposal will allow each team to pick one player per week that has a concussion to go on the inactive list and be replaced on the active roster.

ATL says: This would essentially expand rosters from 53 men to 54 men, if one player is designated to have a concussion. It fits right in with the focus on player safety and makes it easier for teams to survive in-season injuries. Easy enough.

5. Expanding offseason rosters

Teams will be allowed to have 90 players in the offseason and training camp instead of 80. But unsigned draft picks will now count on the total, which is a change from the past.

ATL says: This is minor. Most teams have about seven to eight draft choices, so this won't make a big difference to fans.

6. Too many men on the field adjustment

The Competition Committee proposed adopting the college rule for too many men on the field. This would make it a deadball foul with no time coming off the clock.

ATL says: It will only be a deadball foul, however, if a team lined up 12 defenders. The play clock will continue to run if a player is trying in vain to get off the field, like in the closing moments of the Patriots-Giants Super Bowl.

This is a minor, sensible tweak that may almost never come up in practice. Teams will be prevented from intentionally wasting time by lining up 12 defenders.

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