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Tuesday, March 19
Updated: March 20, 11:42 AM ET
 
'Tuck rule' not among rule changes

By John Clayton
ESPN.com

ORLANDO, Fla. -- The NFL changed seven playing rules Tuesday, tabled the controversial "tuck rule" decision until later meetings and opted to leave unchanged the existing onside-kick rule that provides the kicking team a second chance if the ball goes out of bounds.

In a slight change of agendas from past years, the NFL decided to let owners vote on rules proposals Tuesday instead of waiting until Wednesday, as in past owners meetings. One of the reasons for the reshuffled agenda is that only nine proposals were considered and most affected only small segments of the game.

The tuck controversy and the onside-kick debate dominated most of the two-hour session involving the Competition Committee Tuesday morning. In the end, no one could figure out a way to change the "tuck rule," so the committee decided to use the extra time between meetings to gather more information.

In the Patriots playoff victory over the Raiders, Pats quarterback Tom Brady, who appeared to fumble on a pass play in the final two minutes, was given a second chance to win the game based on Walt Coleman's interpretation of a replay. The tape showed that Brady's arm was still moving down as he decided not to pass but to tuck the ball in. Coleman made the correct interpretation of the rule, calling it a downward passing motion and calling the play an incomplete pass and not a fumble.

To have a pass called a fumble in such a play under the current rule, Brady would have had to tuck the ball to his side.

"The membership agreed that we wanted to continue to research it and study it and look at it more," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the committee. "There will be tapes that will be circulated throughout the league to the member clubs. It will be the very same tape that the committee looked at numerous times in the past week, and then we will resume discussions in May when the owners meet again in Houston."

Fisher said there is no guarantee around the league that there will be enough sentiment to pass a change by then.

The onside-kick discussion centered on the current rule merely penalizing the kicking team five yards if the ball is kicked out of bounds and allowing another kick.

Here's what passed Tuesday:

  • Making sure that home teams don't pipe in loud music, noises or cheers through their public address system when the clock is running and the visiting team has the ball. A league official will be at the game monitoring such events. Though there will not be an on-field penalty, there will be a substantial fine if the home team violates the rule.

  • The league gave the quarterback more protection from helmet-to-helmet hits when there is a change of possession because of a fumble or interception. A personal foul penalty will be called against any defensive player who hits the quarterback in such a manner in a change-of-possession situation. As an example, Browns defensive tackle Gerard Warren was fined but not penalized last season for a helmet-to-helmet hit on Jaguars quarterback Mark Brunell following an interception.

  • A chop-block penalty will be called against any two players who give a chop block against a defender on punts. Before, chop blocks were called only on offensive plays. A chop block is when two players execute high-low blocks that potentially can injure a defender.

  • There is a proposal to not start the clock on kickoffs throughout the game until the ball is touched by the receiving team. Currently, the clock starts upon kickoff unless there is two minutes left in either half. By expanding the rule beyond the two minute warnings, the league believes it can add two plays a game.

  • The league will now let a defensive player legally strip the ball by batting it or punching it. While the rule hasn't really been enforced, there was language prohibiting a player from stripping the ball by punching or batting it.

  • Starting this fall, the clock will keep running during the final two minutes of the game after a quarterback is sacked. Currently, the clock is stopped when a quarterback is sacked in the final two minutes. The league believes this is penalizing good defensive plays and rewarding a bad offensive play.

  • A player will be ruled in bounds if he touches the pylon at the goal line before going out of bounds. For example, a pass would be considered complete if one foot touches the pylon and the other foot is in bounds.

  • The league simplified the marking off of dead ball fouls. Before, there were three different pages of ways for an official to mark off a personal foul. Now, any dead ball fouls by an offensive team will be marked off 15 yards and a new first-and-10 series will begin. That eliminates a percentage of those first-and-25 plays.

  • Here are the new tie-breakers to break division deadlocks. 1) Head to head. 2) Best won-loss record in division games. 3) Best won-loss record in common games. 4) Best won-loss record in conference games. 5) Strength of victory (combined record of teams you beat). 6) Strength of schedule (combined record of all teams you played). 7) Best combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed. 8) Best combined ranking among all teams in points scored and points allowed. 10) Best net points in all games. 11) Best net touchdowns in all games.

  • Here are the tie-breakers for wild cards: 1) head to head. 2) Best won-loss record in conference games. 3) Best won-loss record in common games, minimum four. 4) Strength of victory. 5) Strength of schedule. 6) Combined ranking among conference teams in points scored and points allowed. 7) Best combined ranking among teams in points scored and points allowed. 8) Best net points in conference games. 9) Best net points in all games. 10) Best net touchdowns in all games. 11) Coin toss.

    John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.






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