The NFL competition committee had a busy week, rolling out several major changes to the game. Some are clear and welcome, some are vague and questionable. But at the very least, they project to bring major changes to the game as we know it, at least for 2018.
Here are some of the more significant changes and how they relate specifically to the Vikings.
15-yard penalty and possible ejection for dropping head to initiate contact with helmet
This is the rule that has many people up in arms. The rule figures to change much of football’s aesthetic long-term. Short-term, however, it will likely lead to outrage, confusion and further calls for change. Its vagueness indicates a rush to release, as there is no indication that circumstance could lead to lenience. As written, all helmet contact is a penalty now. And given helmet contact happens close to every play, the early goings could see some unwarranted ejections.
Minnesota specifically has to worry about how safety Andrew Sendejo could be subject to scrutiny with this rule. While Sendejo does not have a reputation as a dirty player, he has already been fined and suspended for illegal hits. And that was before the passing of the new rule. Sendejo has an aggressive style of play, tackling often by throwing his shoulder. And yes, sometimes his head drops along with his shoulder. Under the new rule, a large percentage of such tackles will draw flags. We will have to wait until preseason to see how the rule will be enforced in reality, but at the moment, complaints seem inevitable.
New standard for what constitutes a catch
Ever since Calvin Johnson watched referees take away his game-winning touchdown in 2010, the “survive the ground” element of the catch rule has confused fans and players alike. It appears that has been remedied. Now, a player has to catch the ball, establish two feet in bounds and perform a football move to make the legal catch. The football move could be another step, a lunge, what have you. The important part is that surviving the ground is no longer a factor.
The change means the classic examples of the “completing the catch” farce (Johnson, Dez Bryant and Jesse James) would now be receptions. However, it is a little less clear whether Adam Thielen’s non-touchdown against Carolina in week 14 would be a catch. Thielen secured the ball and got two feet in. The problem is that there was no move besides falling backwards in the end zone before the ball moved. One could argue that the manner in which he fell constituted a “football move,” but again, time will tell how unclear elements are interpreted live.
Teams no longer required to kick PAT or two-point conversion at end of regulation
Following the Minneapolis Miracle, the Vikings players were throwing their equipment all over, celebrating, basking in one of the wildest finishes in NFL history. The Saints, on the other hand, ducked into the locker room as quickly as possible. That is how the game should have ended. But then, some nonsensical requirement forced the Vikings to compose themselves to take one more snap and the Saints to send a handful of players out for a kneeldown. Granted, it led to a cool moment as Case Keenum led the fans in a Skol chant while they waited. But forcing the Saints to come back out for a meaningless play made no sense. Fortunately the NFL kicked that requirement. No more wasting everyone’s time.
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