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A Primer on the NFL Annual Meeting

The next big off-season event on the NFL calender is the league's annual meeting next week in Dana Point, California. While minor compared to the excitement and hub-bub of other off-season events like the draft, the Combine or free agency, these meetings are still important. But because it doesn't get as much attention, I am sure most of you have a lot of questions about this yearly get-together like, "Umm...what is it?" No worries mate, cause I've got all the answer to the questions you've got. So let's get started, shall we?


What is going to be happening at this years meeting?

That's a good one to start with. A few things will take place during the event. The meeting will start out with a report on Monday morning by Roger Goodell. At some point during the three-day meeting the league will announce the compensatory draft selections. In the simplest terms, these are based on how much a team improved or worsened over the course of last years free agency period. If they lost more or better players than they gained, the team will receive a certain number of compensatory picks. Also on the agenda will be the announcement of the Thursday night season-opening game, the nationally televised kickoff weekend games as well as some of the other nationally televised games later in the season.

Most importantly, however, will be lots of discussion about rules and possible changes to them. Much of this discussion is led by proposals put forth by the NFL's Competition Committee.


What is the Competition Committee?

Another excellent and well reasoned query. The Competition Committee is the NFL's primary rule making body. 

The Committee is responsible for maintaining the integrity of the game and competitive balance. It's also responsible for all aspects of the game, which include playing rules, personnel rules, game operations and game day issues that may affect to outcome of the game. (Source)

The Committee puts out a survey among NFL teams and analyzes their critiques and suggestions. They also take into account fan and media suggestions. All of this information is discussed at meetings in Indianapolis during the Combine and at a second meeting in Naples, Florida.


Who is in the Competition Committee?

Wow, you are asking all the right questions. Gold star for you. Jeff Fischer and Rich McKay are the co-chairmen. The other members of the committee are Marvin Lewis, John Mara, Ozzie Newsome, Bill Polian, Mark Richardson and Rick Smith.


So what rules changes are the Committee proposing this year?

Okay, it's like you know exactly what I want you to ask to keep this post rolling smoothly. You're freakin' me out now. Anyway, remember that rule they wanted to pass that would force players with long hair to tuck it under their helmet? That's not going to be discussed. In fact, nobody cares about that anymore so forget about it. But the Competition Committee will be proposing seven rules changes, the first four of which are being made with complete regard for player safety. Those seven rules proposals will be as follows:

1. The elimination of the bunch formation on kickoffs. Kickoff formations must be evenly balanced.

2. The elimination of the three or more man wedge on kickoff returns. Only two men going forward would be considered a legal wedge.

3. Eliminating or penalizing helmet-to-helmet contact on blind-side blocks. I was always under the assumption that helmet-to-helmet contact anytime was illegal so I don't really get this one. No doubt though that this rule is being proposed to protect players from hits like this one.



4. Expanding the protection of defenseless receivers by eliminating any kind of contact with a receivers head area while he is still in the air. He must have two feet on the ground before contact to this area.

5. Expanding reviewable plays to include incomplete passes resulting in fumbles. This rule is to protect Ed Hochuli from being the most hated man in America by allowing him to get this call correctly.


6. Expanding reviewable plays to include loose balls ruled out of bounds but recovered in the field of play. A ball ruled out of bounds was previously unreviewable.

7. Extending the rule that currently eliminates automatic re-kicks on illegal onside kicks in the last five minutes of a game so that the rule would be in effect the entire game.


What else is going to be discussed?

The Competition Committee is also making a bylaw proposal regarding a new draft order. Draft positions 1-20 will still be determined the same as usual but instead of the remaining playoff teams being ranked by regular season record, they will instead be ranked by how they go out in the playoffs.

Even though the Competition Committee may not propose a certain rule change it doesn't mean other topics won't get discussed, like changes to overtime rules. Allowing each team a chance to play offense in overtime has been a hot topic of discussion following the 2008 season. But co-chairman Rich McKay seems to think everything is fine.

...I will say that when you talk to the membership and you talk to the players, I think they're comfortable with the fact that they had a chance to play defense, the game is decided in sudden death.  There is a sense they like the system and the excitement that the system brings, and there's not a real complaint by them that, oh, well, we're not getting a chance to match.  Because in their feeling, and they're very clear about it, hey, we could have helped ourselves, all we had to do was stop them.

The Competition Committee is not proposing any overtime rules changes.

They're also not ready just yet to make any official proposals regarding free agent tampering. Though the committee acknowledges that tampering is a problem, they would like to talk with clubs at next weeks meeting before putting together a proposal. It would likely be similar to one made last year looking for a five to seven day negotiating period prior to free agency that would allow players to speak with teams but would not allow signings or team physicals.

Other topics of discussion will inevitably be regarding an extended season to 17 or possibly 18 games and officials having a buzzer that alerts them when the play clock runs out.


Are there any more questions to be asked?

There couldn't possibly be anything that I didn't already answer.


How are you going to end this post?

Very abrubtly. Sorta like this.