NFL Enacts 15 Rule Changes For 2006 Season


On Wednesday afternoon NFL owners approved 15 rule proposals from the competition committee with most designed to improve player conduct and safety.

The first conduct rule could be called the "Chad Johnson" rule. In 2006 officials will penalize a team 15 yards if one of their players excessively celebrates touchdowns. Last year the Cincinnati Bengals receiver proposed marriage to a cheerleader and used a pylon as a putter among other stunts. The owners passed that measure by a 29-3 margin.

Packers fans, however, can rest easily. The Lambeau Leap was deemed acceptable along with spikes, dunks, spins and other simple celebrations.

Instant replay reviews will change in two ways. In an effort to speed up the game, reviews will be reduced from 90 seconds to 60 this year. Replay challenges also can include down-by-contact plays in which a player fumbled. That rule passed by a 27-5 vote.

As far as the safety measures, a pass rushing defender cannot intentionally hit a quarterback below the knees. They must make every effort to avoid that type of tackle. This proposal gained attention after Bengals quarterback Carson Palmer and Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Brian Griese tore knee ligaments on low hits. The vote passed by a 25-7 margin.

In addition defenders no longer will be able to line up directly over a long snapper during field goals, extra points and punts. They have to line up outside the center's shoulder pads. A guilty party will receive a 5-yard illegal formation penalty, but officials likely will warn the offender prior to the snap.

To further protect players' safety, owners agreed to expand the "Roy Williams Rule." Horse-collar penalties will not only include pulling a player down by the back of the shoulder pads but also grabbing the back of the jersey. That rule passed by a 25-7 vote.

Two recommendations from the competition committee did not pass. More than 10 owners voted against allowing a defensive player to wear a radio in their helmet like quarterbacks. Owners ruled against letting wide receivers re-set before a snap to curtail the increasing number of false start penalties.

Two ideas lacking the competition committee's endorsement did not receive appoval. Owners nearly unanimously defeated the Buccaneers' proposal to include all penalties for instant replay review. They also tabled Kansas City Chiefs' proposal to expand the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14 until their next meeting in May.

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