Gridiron Thursdays with Keith Egan: NFL Rule Changes

Date: June 29, 2017

By: Keith Egan

In the 2017 Spring League meeting in Chicago, owners from all NFL teams voted for new rule changes to be in effect for the upcoming season. The group decided on eight different rules, influencing the game form various different aspects.

Let's take a look at what some of them mean...

Loosen restrictions on celebrations


The NFL has been widely criticized for taking away the fun of the game for penalizing celebrations in the past. This spring meeting has cleared up some confusion and to a lot of people's surprise, loosened the restrictions on such celebrations. In the rule, it allows players to celebrate in different ways including in groups, by going to the ground and using the ball as a prop. In addition, the rule also restricts violent imagery and sexual suggestive acts, such as Antonio Brown's "twerking" when he scored a touchdown against the Washington Redskins and received a controversial penalty.

What seems like a small rule that may barely need to be taken seriously, may have an effect more off the field as far as ratings are concerned. While some old-fashioned fans dislike the idea of crazy celebrations, a lot are intrigued by the unique and various touchdown dances. Overall, the feeling has been whether you like or dislike the thought of an outrageous touchdown dance, restricting them can take away from the fun of the game. Having restrictions on the messages that the celebrations evoke is more understandable however and makes sure there is a line that cannot be crossed.

Overall, I would say this was a step forward for the NFL, but it will be interesting to see how the officials grade the celebrations as "too far."

Roster cut down changed to only one day

In the past, NFL teams were required to cut down their roster to 75 players before their last preseason game. In the new rule, there will be no prior restriction on how many people to cut before they need to have their 53-man roster ready for week one.

This rule change has many positives or negatives based on what position you are in as a player or coach. This will allow players who are on the first-cut fence to try to prove themselves one last time. However, the coaches have a decent idea of what players are ready to take the next step by the last game. Cutting 22 players from the roster for week one is a hard enough job for NFL coaches. Now with the cuts reaching 37 players all at once, there is sure to be some chaos in some team meetings.

I would have to deem this change unnecessary and not a friendly change for NFL coaches and GM's. If the owners wanted to have more time to look at a few more players, they could have changed the number to 80 instead of 75. Players 81-90 are very rarely going to find their spot after one game, but they will now have their chance.

Regular season overtime cut down from 15 minutes to 10


This rule change is motivated by two things: eliminating possible injuries, and eliminating the chances of ties. While it may limit one slightly, the other may only heighten the chances.

The average time of a drive ranges from around 2:30-3:00, but on a scoring drive, it commonly can be around five-minutes. Therefore, under the modern NFL overtime rules, a team would have less of a chance to answer a team who re-tied the score, resulting in more ties. In addition, the team who receives the ball second, may also have less time to answer a field goal, or even a scoreless drive. Not only does this rule fail at preventing ties, but actually may create more. This simply takes five-minutes away from players, fans and the game itself.

Yes, taking five-minutes away from the game will lower the possibility of total injuries. However, it is in no way certain that a player will be injured in any given five-minutes of play, and changing the possible outcome of the game is the more important aspect of this rule. With the NFL commonly criticized for its player safety, this is their next step to protect its players, but putting the intelligence of the game result at risk makes this rule severely flawed.

The front office of the league often finds itself in a tough position with protecting players and keeping the game as is, however I think this change does little for either circumstance.

Two players will be available to be taken off injured reserve

Last year, the NFL improved their rule on taking players off the injured reserve list by eliminating the rule that the decision had to be made up front. This season, the league took another step by allowing that two players be brought of the injured reserve list.

The rule change does not sound like much, but it surely can improve the quality of play and make sure that playoff teams are at full strength for their biggest games. This could affect teams in a different magnitude of ways depending on the players on the I.R., however having the teams at their fullest possible strength improves the quality of play, makes it a win for the league.

This definitely should have a positive impact on play and make sure that the last few weeks of the season and playoff time displays the best players from each team. A good rule change all-around.


Keith Egan can be reached at

Posted in: Sports