It's March Madness, the NBA and NHL seasons are entering crunch-time, and the start of baseball is just a couple weeks away, but yet the NFL is still stealing headlines with some timely news -- they're smart like that.
Yesterday, the league released their match-ups for Kickoff Weekend and Thanksgiving Day, as well as some throwback uniforms teams will wear. But they weren't done. The NFL owners also passed four new "player safety rules," and altered a rule so that no longer is it allowed for a player on the ground to "lunge into quarterbacks" (Tom Brady will NOT be hurt again!).
The four new rules:
These rules will be met with criticism, but ultimately they're just there to protect the players. Next for the NFL? How about more games?
The initial force of a blindside block can't be delivered by a helmet, forearm or shoulder to an opponent's head or neck. An illegal blindside block will bring a 15-yard penalty.
Initial contact to the head of a defenseless receiver also will draw a 15-yard penalty.
On kickoffs, no blocking wedge of more than two players will be allowed. A 15-yard penalty will go to a violating team.
Also on kickoffs, the kicking team can't have more than five players bunched together pursuing an onside kick. It will be a 5-yard penalty.
National Football League owners could vote in May on plans to lengthen the regular season to 17 or 18 games. The longer regular season, however, is unlikely to begin any earlier than 2011, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Monday at the N.F.L.’s annual meeting.Emphasis added.
Adding at least one regular-season game while reducing the preseason schedule is a critical component of what Goodell called “increasing value” — the league’s attempt to find new revenue while remaining attractive to fans in the challenging economic climate. There is almost no chance that the regular season will remain at 16 games.
Clearly this decision is motivated by money: more games equals more cash in the owners' pockets. But you have to wonder: is it too much? Don't get me wrong -- I love the NFL. But part of it's greatness is that with just 16 games, the shortness of the season is magnified and condensed into five months of intense awesomeness. Am I really missing something by not having a St. Louis-San Francisco match-up in Week 19? I don't think so.
It's somewhat ironic: the NFL introduces new rules to prevent injuries, but then discusses adding games, which will probably just increase injuries. We can't wait for the NFL in 2025: two-hand touch with 48 games.