Writers of Pro Football Prospectus 2008

27 Aug 2010

Official 2010 NFL Rule Change Video

Last week, as part of the Procter and Gamble Blogger Fantasy League draft at NFL headquarters, my leaguemates and I had a chance to sit down with NFL VP of Officiating Carl Johnson to talk about how league officials make sure rules are being followed on Sundays. As part of their presentation, the league gave each of us a DVD with the same video about rule changes that is shown to players at the start of training camp. I figured, if anyone wants to sit through a 15 minute video on the specifics of NFL rules changes, it is the readers of this website. So I got permission from the league to post the video. I hope you enjoy.

Click here to view the video. Please be aware that the first 5-6 seconds are blank, so it won't start immediately.

Changes covered include:

  • Penalties for hitting "defenseless receivers"
  • New illegal formation penalties on punts
  • The ball is now dead if the ballcarrier loses his helmet
  • The new playoff overtime rules
  • The change in the position of the umpire

They also politely ask players to stop demonstrably gesturing for penalty flags after plays. I have a feeling that asking nicely is not going to make this stop.

Posted by: Aaron Schatz on 27 Aug 2010

49 comments, Last at 31 Aug 2010, 8:50am by masoch


by The Powers That Be :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 3:44pm

Wait, so plays like this one will never happen again? That's a little sad. Understandable, but sad.

by Basilicus :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:04pm

That's the one change I'm kind of unhappy with, but it's sensible on the whole. A helmetless ball carrier really is one of the more exciting things to watch, but if the league's serious about lessening head injuries among players, this has to be one of the first things to watch.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:51pm

John Madden was always bemused when helmets came off and would say something about how they must not have put it on properly. So I'm guessing this will just lead to offensive players tightening their straps a bit.

by Bobman :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 3:47pm

Who likes the new umpire positioning rule? I thought the league generally favored faster-paced, higher-scoring games. Only without the no-huddle offense.....

by Arkaein :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:50pm

I hadn't really anticipated the implications of this rule that came up during the Packers-Colts game last night, with Manning being impatient with the ump placing the ball and backing up.

However, something that got a bit lost in the discussion was that, in addition to the ref safety issue solved by moving the umpire out of the defensive backfield, there will be no more problems (except at the ends of halves) with the umpire influencing the play in the middle of the defense. Anyone saying the rule needs to be axed at this point would be throwing the baby out with the bathwater.

Clearly they need to smooth out getting the ball ready at the line of scrimmage, but if defenses have been dealing with it for nearly a century (or however long the ump has lined up in the defense), then offenses can probably learn to cope. There's really no reason why the offense deserves to be able to line up and get ready while the defense is waiting for the umpire to back up out of their way. I'm not sure if it will be all that noticeable during normal games, it seemed like this was a case of Manning and co. testing the limits of the rule as much as anything.

Still not sure about the impact on holding penalties. It seems like there were a few obvious ones missed, but that was true in most games under the old rule, so I'm not sure if there's a real difference.

by PatsFan :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:08pm

Predictably, the Colt front office whining has already begun!


by Jeff Feagles is God (not verified) :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 3:10pm

that's because the rule sucks you retard

by Karma Coma :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 4:06pm

The issue of suckery aside, you have to admit it's pretty funny seeing a 4-time league MVP asking for "a do-over of some sort."

by BigCheese :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 4:25pm

I find it very interesting that inside the two minute warning the umpire is going ot line up in his old spot. So they already knew this was going ot be a problem for hurry-up offenses.

- Alvaro

by Spielman :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:00pm

From the Steven Jackson is a badass department...
1) On the receiving end of a hit used to illustrate a rule change. Yes.
2) Had his helmet rolling down the field? Yup.
3) Held onto the ball? You betcha.

by Spielman :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:11pm

Also... it wouldn't have been a good demonstration of unsportsmanlike conduct without an appearance by Richie Incognito.

by Basilicus :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 4:02pm

That was suprisingly absorbing to watch, and will probably result in lessening my hair-pulling moments at calls during the season.

Unlike the past few seasons, it doesn't look like there's anything new that really irks me, and there are some sensible adjustments of things that have annoyed.

by Mello :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 5:32pm

Thanks a lot for the video Aaron. Very informative. A few issues/comments about the changes:

1. The "defenseless players" one was well explained. I'm going to be ticked the first time they declare a defender as launching when both feet are not off the ground. Can see officials getting that wrong a lot. That could easily be challenged, but I doubt that's reviewable. The league still hasn't taken the obvious step of making most of the non-judgment calls reviewable.

2. What's to stop a punting team from lining a player near the line of scrimmage, slightly off the line from the center to the punter, direct snapping to him, and running up the middle for an easy yard?

3. They poorly showed the helmet one. I can already see some arguments about when exactly the helmet is considered lost and where the ball should be spotted. That might be challengeable, not sure. In the video, Shockey's helmet came off his head with the ball barely across the 40 yard line. That's technically the 41 yard line, but the video paused after the helmet had fallen to his knee and the ball was exactly on the 41 yard line. Also, as the video showed, this rule does little to really protect players. Defenders aren't going to be able to react fast enough to keep from tackling the player in many cases. Just takes away a few awesome plays like the Witten one.

4. I like the interference rule. As long as the receiver is fair game when the ball hits the ground. Non-roughing interference being for no penalty yardage is nice.

5. The rule about dead ball fouls at the end of a half is OK. I would have preferred giving the team fouled the option to extend the half or take the penalty in the next period.

by Displaced Cane :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 5:48pm

With access to this type of material, "Football Outsiders" is becoming a misnomer....

Thanks for sharing this stuff with us. Cool.

by Jerry :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 2:17am

Thanks to both Aaron and the league.

by tinthesack :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 6:23pm

jeez how are they going to determine a launch at full speed?

by tunesmith :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 7:02pm

I might be confused about the penalty-at-end-of-half stuff, but I always liked knowing that if a penalty was called on the defense, the offense could run another play. I'm guessing that remains if this only applies to penalties after the play is completely over?

by Jerry :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 2:16am

Yeah, a dead ball ball foul is after the play is over. There are occasions where everyone thinks the half is over, and then a player takes a shot at an opponent. Rather than let that extend the half if a defender commits the penalty, it's now just enforced on the next kickoff (if the game's not over).

by dbostedo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 7:38pm

After the narrator says "The following players are considered defenseless and will be protected by this rule...", I was kind of expecting him to follow it with "Manning... Brady... Rivers... Rodgers..." etc.

by socctty :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 6:59pm

I did the same thing, and laughed out loud when they showed Romo first. Did NFL Films produce the video? I'd bet someone there has a sense of humor.

by Athelas :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 7:47pm

me and my leaguemates had a chance to sit down

Really Aaron? Are you being sarcastic or something else I missed?

by dbostedo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 7:57pm

That referred to Aaron and the others in the mentioned fantasy league. Not the National Football League.

by Agamemnon :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:09pm

Me thought Athelas was referring to Aaron's use of the objective "me" as the subject of his sentence.

by dbostedo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:14pm

In that case, how could saying "me and my leaguemates" instead of "my leaguemates and I" be considered sarcastic?

by Agamemnon :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:23pm

Maybe he felt Aaron was ridiculing people with poor grammar?

by Theo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:03pm

"They also politely ask players to stop demonstrably gesturing for penalty flags after plays."

Make it illegal!
Ask for penalty is getting one.

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 8:23pm


Does making that hand gesture affect the game in anyway, other that making it slightly more annoying to watch?

However, I think they also need to get rid of excessive celebration.

by Theo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 9:23pm

bad sportsmanship, no respect for the ref and opponent

by tuluse :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 9:46pm

If you believed you were fouled, how does asking for the foul to be called demonstrate lack of respect?

If the player really takes it too far they already have a penalty for that, it's called unsportsmanlike conduct. You saw it on display in 2007 when Bart Scott (I think?) mouthed off to a ref.

At a certain point you're trying to control who people are, and that is not beneficial. Players like Walter Payton who didn't feel the need for an theatrics are so lauded because they chose to act that way, not because they were forced to act that way.

by Theo :: Fri, 08/27/2010 - 10:58pm

Sure, I agree with you, but I was raised with soccer.
Asking for a yellow flag can mean that the next time, you got to get your act together. So fake diving will enter the NFL within one or two years.
This should be stopped like the plague.

by dbostedo :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 6:18pm

It will be much tougher to dive in the NFL than in soccer since lots of contact is generally allowed in football, especially on the ball (obviously). Plus, the presence of a lot of officials would help keep it in check. The NFL can also impose penalties after the game in the form of fines for unsportsmanlike conduct (something I REALLY want FIFA and the major european leagues to implement).

I've seen receivers essentially take a dive a few times over the years trying to get pass interference called, and I haven't seen a successful one that I can remember. I'm sure it's happened at times, but usually it's blatant interference, or it doesn't get called.

by dianagram :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 10:19am

QBs after change of possession are to be considered "defenseless". If they attempt to get in on the INT or fumble play, they'd still be considered "defenseless"?

by Theo :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 3:13pm

It's after a change of possession, so that would be a yes. Seems strange/up for debate to me too, because if he ducks to absorb a block, it will automatically go to the head/shoulder area.

by IsraelP (not verified) :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 1:23am

So you can't block the punter after he punts? He gets a feee shot to tackle the returner?

by Theo :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 9:04am

cant lead with head shoulder or forearm to the head/neck area... seems strange to me since you absorb a block with your helmet and shoulderpads.
We'll see how this pans out.

by Joseph :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 3:26pm

After watching the video, I think they mean a hit like Bobby McCray put on Warner toward the end of the first half of the Cards/Saints playoff game. In other words, you can't VICIOUSLY block them and try to take their head off. Even as a Saints' fan, I thought McCray's hit was uncalled for.
Notice that the rule is for the FIRST contact. Considering the majority of QB's, P's, & K's are all undersized compared to the other players, that's the emphasis. If you "lay him out" with a hit/block to his chest, okay; to his head, 15 yd. penalty. At least, that's what I came away with--esp. after the clips showing completely LEGAL hits to "defenseless" WR's (since they were non-head shots).

by dmb :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 1:33pm

It appeared as though the aforementioned new VP of Officiating, Mr. Carl Johnson, keeps an xbox 360 controller on his desk. I just thought that was interesting.

by narticus :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 10:26am

The controller is connected to the video replay setup. Pereira talked about it in one of his segments last year; the gaming controller is far easier to work with than a standard remote for the various ways that the VP of Officiating reviews plays.

by andrew :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 1:41pm

If you want them to take the penalties more seriously, don't list them in a "Comic Sans" font....

by Dan Gilbert (not verified) :: Sat, 08/28/2010 - 8:59pm

What's wrong with Comic Sans?

by drobviousso :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 12:12am

The shape and spacing of the letters.

by coboney :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 2:48pm

Gotta say - very informative and thanks for posting this!

by Never Surrender (not verified) :: Sun, 08/29/2010 - 9:55pm

Funny to watch and see the usual suspects (and, in some cases, the usual teams) doing the plays that are now illegal.

Eliminating the "launch" plays is a good start to player safety, but not sufficient. I'm really hoping (but not holding my breath) that the NFL moves away from violence over the next few years.

by zlionsfan :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 3:19pm

I'm glad to see that a kid from the streets of San Andreas finally hit the big-time. I always knew he'd amount to something ... but I wonder if he still has that green hoodie in his closet somewhere.

It seemed like they spent a lot of time and a lot of words talking about "defenseless" when what they really seemed to be saying was "don't hit people in the head." (In fact, the #1 point of emphasis every year could be "Don't hit people in the head and don't hit people with your head.") It seems like the next point of contention will be launching.

I don't know that I agree with the request to tone down gestures ... I don't think the gesture itself incites the crowd as much as missing the call in the first place. I guess this is the same type of thing that baseball in particular is trying to change: if you disagree with a call (or a non-call), speak to the official so that the conversation is between the two of you, don't gesture at the official to open it up for everyone.

I just think it's a lot to ask sometimes, particularly if you get nailed in the back before the ball arrives ... you're supposed to get up and calmly ask the official if perhaps he saw interference on that play?

by Jerry :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 9:02pm

I don't think the gesture itself incites the crowd as much as missing the call in the first place.

Where "missing the call" is defined as the call going in favor of the visiting team.

For me, receivers making the flag-dropping gesture after any contact has gotten old.

by Dr. Mooch :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 5:04pm

So if I manage to take the Colts into overtime in a playoff game, I win the toss and score with a field goal the new rule says I have to kick and give Manning a chance with the ball. . . . Or, FO tells us that surprise onside attempts have about a 70% chance of success, immediately ending the game.

by tuluse :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 5:11pm

It has to be real surprise to have a 70% chance of working.

by BigCheese :: Mon, 08/30/2010 - 6:06pm

Yeah, so?

- Alvaro

by masoch (not verified) :: Tue, 08/31/2010 - 8:50am

Even being a Seahawks fan, I think that unnecessary roughness example on Leonard Little was ticky tack, at best. The receiver wasn't clearly out of bounds, and was barely hit... I suppose you could make an argument that whistles were blown, but it's still a TERRIBLE example of unnecessary roughness to use for the NFL league rules update video.