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New safety rules: Interceptions included for defenseless players

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

Editor's note: This is the fifth of five capsules explaining the NFL's new player-safety rules that were passed at last week's Annual Meeting.

FRIDAY: Expansion of defenseless receiver rule.

Who:Wide receivers, tight ends and running backs.

When:All passing plays.

What:Under the rule change, the intended receiver of a pass in the immediate continuing action following an interception is now protected as a defenseless receiver. If the player is capable of avoiding or warding off the impending contact, he is no longer a defenseless player.

Where: It is a foul if a player initiates unnecessary contact against a player who is in a defenseless posture. Previously, the passer and the receiver were protected prior to and during the act of catching a pass. Now, both are protected after an interception.

How will be it be enforced:A 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness.

Reaction:"It makes sense to carry that receiver. We saw a lot of hits, and he gets defenseless player protection, but in the event that the ball is picked off by a linebacker and the player is hit immediately in the head and neck area by another player, that should be a foul." -- St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, who is a member of the NFL Competition Committee.

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