NFL bans line leaping, approves ejections for head hits

Blocking field goals or extra points just became more difficult.

NFL owners passed a rule to prohibit players from leaping over offensive linemen during kicks, the league announced Tuesday. It was one of the several rule changes owners approved via a vote at the Annual League Meeting in Phoenix.

"The jumping over on the field goal, I think, is just leading to a really dangerous play for everybody," offensive lineman Eric Winston, the NFLPA's president, said earlier this offseason, via the Washington Post. "If you jump over the center, the jumper is in a really bad spot. He can land on his head. I think the guys that are getting jumped over are going to end up getting hurt, with those guys landing on them. So I'll be very interested to see what they'll do there. I think something probably needs to be done."

Defenders leaping from the second level over an offensive lineman, usually the long snapper, has led to exciting plays. Players like Seattle SeahawksKam Chancellor have impacted games by blocking multiple kicks. Denver's Justin Simmons famously changed the outcome of last season's contest versus the New Orleans Saints by leaping over and blocking a would-be go-ahead extra point, which was returned for two points, giving the Broncos a 25-23 win.

Of the combined 41 blocked field-goal attempts and PATs in 2016, three came from players jumping over the line, per NFL Research. Seattle's Bobby Wagner blocked a field-goal attempt against the Cardinals; New England's Shea McClellin had a field-goal block against the Ravens and Denver's Justin Simmons stymied a Saints PAT try.

Many players might be upset with the rule change, but both the NFL and NFLPA endorsed it for safety reasons.

Although several new rules were ratified, the proposal to shorten overtimes in preseason and regular-season games to 10 minutes was tabled for consideration at a later date. Stephen Jones, executive vice president and CEO of the Cowboys and a member of the NFL Competition Committee, said some teams were concerned the condensed time period would limit their ability to control the ball during the extra frame.

"I think it's still that people are concerned that both teams aren't getting to touch the ball," Jones said. "It even came up that what if you happen to have a team that has a good running team like Dallas that has a good running game, we have long drives, what if you happen to have a team (that has) a 10-minute drive?

"I'm sure that after the Super Bowl there's people who felt like it would have been interesting if Atlanta had its chance. Not to take anything away from New England -- what an amazing game and amazing outcome. But we got to continue to look at it."

  1. The NFL passed a rule for automatic ejections for egregious hits to the head, NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported. This new rule comes a year after the league installed an automatic ejection system for players who committed two personal fouls in the same game.

Translation: Expect college-like targeting calls to lead to ejections.

  1. The Washington Redskins' proposal to place the ball at the 20-yard-line if the kicker puts it through the uprights on a kickoff failed, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported.
  1. The owners approved centralized replay, giving senior VP of officiating Dean Blandino and the New York command center final say on calls in question, NFL Network's Kimberly Jones reported.
  1. Touchbacks on kickoffs will once again result in teams starting from the 25-yard line. The rule was renewed by team owners for another year rather than being made permanent.
  1. Receivers running pass routes are now being given defenseless player protection.
  1. Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a backfield player in motion, even if he's not more than two yards outside the tackle box when the ball is snapped.
  1. Unsportsmanlike penalties will be issued to players who commit multiple fouls during the same down in an effort to manipulate the game clock.
  1. Similarly, action to conserve time after the two-minute warning of either half would be considered illegal and would result in a penalty now.
  1. Ejections for two unsportsmanlike fouls in a single game, which was introduced last season, is now a permanent rule.
  1. The proposal to shorten the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes in preseason and regular season games was tabled to May's Spring League Meeting, per Rapoport. Rapoport added it likely will pass then after further discussion.
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