NFL owners expand clipping penalty to side of defender's legs

By Bill Bradley, contributing editor

NFL owners voted Tuesday to expand the clipping penalty to include blocking defenders on the side as well as the backs of legs.

The decision, one of the few player safety rule proposals recommended by the Competition Committee, came during the third day of the NFL Annual Meeting in Orlando, Fla.

The rule change affects personal fouls for clipping, making it no longer legal for blockers to "roll up" on the side of the legs of defenders as well as the back of his legs. The move would be penalized 15 yards for unnecessary roughness.

"All it does is extend -- we granted what we call 'roll-up' protection or protection from players rolling up the back of a player's legs -- we're going to extend that protection from the back to the sides," Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said last week when the rule was officially proposed. "It really just takes Rule 12, Section 2, Article 1 and inserts the two words that say 'or side' right next to where it says the blocker cannot roll up on the back of the legs of a defender.

"It will now say 'roll up on the back or side of the legs of a defender.' We saw some plays on tape that we just felt like we needed to expand that protection."

Earlier Tuesday, the owners voted to have the NFL Command Center be involved in the replay review process. NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino and his crew will weigh in on reviewable plays while the referee is under the hood, using the added technology available at the NFL headquarters in New York.

Also, the owners voted to ban the use of the goal post for end zone celebrations by players. Players have been using the 10-foot crossbar to dunk on for years. But the move has caused delays after such celebrations made the goal posts list.

Other player safety rules proposals being considered this week include:

  • Moving the kickoff line to the kicking team's 40-yard line to cut down on injuries during special-teams play.
  • Eliminating overtime periods from preseason games to take away possible excessive opportunities for injuries.
  • Discontinuing the stopping of the play clock after a quarterback is sacked for consistency in clock management by referees.

The player safety bylaws that have been proposed are:

  • Increase the number of players on the active roster for each game from 46 to 49, allowing for more substitutions and greater flexibility for player safety, especially on Thursday night games when players have had four days to heal from Sunday's games.
  • Increasing the number of players on the practice squad from eight to 10, allowing for greater flexibility for rosters, thus adding player safety buffers.
  • Eliminating the cutdown day to 75 players that normally occurs after the third preseason game, creating only one mandatory cutdown day to 53 after the final preseason game. It would provide more development for players and add a buffer for player safety during training camp.
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