DANA POINT, Calif. -- The NFL today approved four new rules that focus on player safety, including the so-called Hines Ward Rule that affects blocking tactics.
The blocking rule makes illegal a blindside block if it comes from the blocker's helmet, forearm or shoulder and lands to the head or neck area of the defender. One of the highlights the NFL competition committee used to portray such a block was the one Ward threw last season that broke the jaw of Cincinnati rookie linebacker Keith Rivers.
These rules also were approved today:
• Teams kicking off must have four players on each side of the kicker with three lined up outside each inbounds line. The rule was passed to prevent "bunching" on onsides kicks.
• No more than two players on the kickoff receiving drill can form a wedge to block for the runner.
• Any hits to a "defenseless" receiver cannot be made by a defender's helmet, forearm or shoulder to the head.