With the start of the NFL season right around the corner, it's important to understand one of the biggest impacts on the game – the rules. In May, the NFL announced seven new rules that will come into effect this year. NFL officials Ron Torbert, Mark Steinkerchner, Aaron Santi and James Coleman were in Philadelphia on Thursday to make sure the Eagles understand these changes and what they mean.
While the majority of the rules directly relate to player safety, the change most fans will immediately recognize involves the extra point. Gone are the days of kicking from the 2-yard line. Now, the extra point will be taken from the 15-yard line to become a 33-yard kick. Additionally, the kicking team has the opportunity to change from a kick to a two-point conversion in the event of a penalty on the defense. The play could potentially turn into a run from the 1-yard line and a much better chance for the offense to score two points.
"Let's say the team was going to kick it from the 15," explained Torbert. "The defense is offsides, and instead of kicking from the 15 to the 10 they can decide to go from the two to the one to try and run for two points."
Furthermore, in the event the defense gains possession of the ball, it can return the kick or the two-point conversion attempt for two points of its own, making the attempt all the more interesting.
Although not a rule change, the NFL officials also explained slight alterations to their process for checking balls prior to each game. Officials have always measured the pressure before kickoffs, but that practice will be taken a step further to ensure an even playing field for all teams.
"The process will change somewhat," said Torbert. "We've always checked the pressure of the balls. We've always used a pressure gauge to do it. What will be a little different this year is that we'll actually record the pressure of the balls as we measure it before a game. If a ball is outside of the accepted range, we will inflate every ball that's outside of the accepted range to 13 pounds per square inch.
"Then there will be randomly selected games we don't necessarily know in advance that balls that are used in the first half, the primary balls from each team, will be taken out of service, measured at halftime and each team's backup set of balls will be used in the second half."
In terms of player safety, one of the biggest changes comes during potential interception plays. The NFL wants to protect defenseless receivers from hits that can cause serious injury. If the receiver is running down the field, tracking the ball, he is considered defenseless. In the event of an interception, the intended receiver cannot be hit in the head or neck area.
All chop-blocking involving a back will also be eliminated beginning this season. With this change, the NFL aims to protect defenders engaged above the waist from low blocks.
These rule changes, as well as a few others, will help keep players safe, one of the league's biggest goals.
"Player safety is most important now," Steinkerchner said. "It's a vocal point of everything."