We’re smack dab in the middle of the post-draft, pre-camp lull in the NFL, but the league owners gave us something to read about today by making a few noteworthy rule changes.
Regular season overtime periods will be shortened by five minutes. From a player standpoint, this makes sense. After seventy minutes of NFL football, even the most well-conditioned athletes are probably going to be pretty fatigued. The lower quality of play and increased injury risk, rare as they may be, won’t be missed by the players. The downside here is that we may see an uptick in ties, given how many times we see teams trade field goals in overtime without being able to score a second time. For the record, the last time the Buffalo Bills played to a tie was a 21-21 draw December 10, 1972, against the Detroit Lions.
The 75-man cutdown day has been eliminated. Offseason rosters are limited to 90 players, a number that must be shortened to 53 by the start of the regular season. Until now, however, there had been an interim limit of 75 players, usually enforced after the third preseason game. That has been done away with; now, teams can carry 90 players on their roster for the entire preseason before one massive cutdown day prior to opening week. This should help the players on the back end of the roster a lot, as they’ll have an extra chance to make an impression on their coaches and earn a spot they might otherwise have missed out on. Of course, the players who benefit are likely long shots to make the final 53 anyway, and spending an extra game with a team that has no intention of keeping them might prevent them from latching on with a team that they might be able to make as a depth or special teams player.
Celebration rules have been relaxed. The “No Fun League” decided to lighten up a bit by allowing some celebrations that had been penalized in recent years. Group celebrations, going to the ground, and using the football as a prop are no longer going to be met with a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. Excessively lengthy, violent, or sexual celebrations will still be penalized, as will taunting. The ones the fans and players love, though, will be back and better than ever.
Two players may now return from IR. File this under good rule changes. Now teams will be able to designate two players, instead of one, as eligible to return from Injured Reserve. The player must have spent at least eight weeks on IR before they can be considered for returning. This is an addition to the original rule, proposed by the Bills in 2016, that granted teams the ability to designate a player to return from IR at some point after placing them on IR instead of at the moment they were placed on IR. Last season the Bills used this rule to bring Sammy Watkins back to the active roster.