Whenever it next plays games, the NFL will be more aggressive in suspending players for illegal hits and might make changes to instant replay and kickoffs.
Ray Anderson, the league’s chief disciplinarian, said Wednesday that repeat offenders or players committing flagrant illegal hits will have a much greater chance of being suspended during the next NFL season. Labor strife has resulted in a lockout that puts the 2011 season in jeopardy of starting late or being canceled altogether.
No suspensions were handed down in 2010 even after the league’s crackdown on such hits, in part because “we were operating under the principle unless you have given sufficient advance notice of what the results could be, you need to be more lenient,” Anderson said.
“Frankly, now that the notice has been given, players and coaches and clubs are very aware of what the emphasis is, and we won’t have that hesitation,” Anderson said. “Everyone will be very clearly on notice now that a suspension is very viable for us and we will exercise it ... when it comes to illegal hits to the head and neck area and to defenseless players.”
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The rules defining a defenseless player also will be expanded. The league looks at two years worth of plays to determine repeat offenders.
At next week’s owners meetings in New Orleans, the competition committee will propose moving the kickoff up to the 35-yard line and placing the ball at the 25 after a touchback on a kickoff. There would be no changes for touchbacks on any other plays, with the ball continuing to be placed at the 20.
Also, no player other than the kicker would be allowed to line up more than 5 yards behind the ball, and the committee will suggest outlawing the wedge on kickoffs; all blocking wedges were reduced to two players in 2009.
“The injury rate on kickoffs remains a real concern for us and the players and the coaches’ subcommittee,” said Falcons president Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee. “This is a pretty major change.”
So would be making all scoring plays reviewable, another proposal that the committee will bring to the owners Monday. This change would empower the replay official to order replays on any touchdowns, field goals, safeties or extra points without a coach needing to challenge.
Eliminating a third coach’s challenge if he is successful on the first two also will be proposed; McKay said the third challenge rarely was used.
There will be no “Calvin Johnson rule” proposal on what is a catch. Johnson seemingly made a touchdown reception late in the Lions’ season opener in September, but had it ruled incomplete because the ball touched the ground and was knocked out of his hand as he rolled over with it. McKay’s committee is only recommending a further clarification of the rules on such receptions.
An Ohio judge said Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Chad Ochocinco must pay a Cincinnati clothing store, Exclusive Wear, $11,717 for items that he took but never paid for. Among the items the store said Ochocinco took were a $575 Al Wissam Bomber coat, $400 Mauri alligator shoes and $350 Laguna beach jeans. … Ochocinco has found something to do during the NFL’s lockout – he’ll try out for a Major League Soccer team, Sporting Kansas City, next week. “We know that Chad is an exceptional athlete and that he loves the sport of soccer, and he did play a lot when he was younger,” Sporting Kansas City manager Peter Vermes said. Ochocinco has filled in as the Bengals’ emergency kicker. … Indianapolis Colts tight end Dallas Clark plans to film a cameo appearance for the CBS show “Criminal Minds” next week. The show is scheduled to air April 13. “This is fulfilling a dream of mine of being an actor,” he said. … New York Giants president and CEO John Mara said his team’s season ticket holders won’t have to make payments until the lockout ends.