NFL Meetings: Owners send mixed signals

Some rule changes are head-scratchers

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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- The NFL and its owners cannot seem to decide whether they want increased safety or not, whether to speed up their games or slow them to a crawl.

The owners sent confusing statements when they voted on rules proposals Wednesday, the final acts of their annual meeting.

The safety rule involved the league's quarterbacks. For years the league has moved to protect its biggest and most vulnerable stars, but not Wednesday.

A rule proposed by the Steelers to make the horse-collar tackle illegal on a quarterback in the pocket -- as it is for every other player with the ball anywhere on the field -- was rejected, with only five yes votes. So while it will continue to be a foul if, say, Ed Reed tackles Isaac Redman by the back of his neck, Ray Lewis can pull Ben Roethlisberger down from behind the same way without fear of a penalty.

The rule did not have the support of the powerful competition committee. It did by the man who proposed it, Steelers president Art Rooney II.

"The committee doesn't think [quarterbacks] have the same risk as the runner because of this torque issue," Rooney said. "When they're running and you pull them down from behind it's a more violent kind of tackle than if the guy's just standing there.

"I still think there's hope we'll get it passed at some point. I think this one kind of snuck up on them. If we can get the competition committee -- at least some members of the competition committee -- to take it seriously, then there's a chance."

Rooney was the only owner to vote against a new rule that allows every turnover to be reviewed by replay, the way scoring plays were added last year. It adds yet more plays that can be reviewed, likely slowing games down because it will allow coaches to save their challenges for other plays, perhaps more mundane ones.

"As far as we're concerned, that's why you have the coaches challenges," Rooney said, explaining his no vote. "Now you're going to have coaches challenging [a spot] -- a gain of 5 yards instead of 4 yards, stuff like that."

Another proposal that might have sped up games -- allowing an official in the booth to rule on replay challenges -- was shot down.

One Steelers proposal passed with ease: The owners voted to use the new overtime rules adopted for the playoffs last season for all games in 2012. Under that rule, a game that goes into overtime cannot end on a field goal on the first possession. The opposing team must get one series, and if it also kicks a field goal, the extra period continues. Of course, if it fails to score it loses, and if it gets a touchdown, it wins. However, regular-season games will still end if they are tied after one full quarter of overtime; in the playoffs, the game continues until one team wins.

Other proposed rules were tabled until the May meetings, when they might be put to a vote:

• The one-player exception to the injured reserve rule, which the Steelers have long supported. It would allow one player severely injured before the second week of the season to sit out eight weeks rather than miss an entire season, which all such players placed on IR must do under current rules.

• Expanding training camp roster limits from 80 to 90.

• An exemption to the 53-man roster for one player with a concussion.

For more on the Steelers, read Ed Bouchette on the Steelers at . Ed Bouchette: and .


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