Rule changes and points of emphasis for 2015

Posted by Mike Spofford on August 6, 2015 – 5:32 pm

blog-header-imageGREEN BAY — A group of NFL officials arrived at Packers training camp on Thursday and will be with the team through Saturday’s Family Night practice.

In addition to officiating practices, they will be meeting with players and coaches to go over rule changes and points of emphasis for the 2015 season. The officials went over those with the media on Thursday. Here is a brief summary:

–An intended receiver on an interception (or potential interception) is now extended the protections of a defenseless receiver and cannot be hit in the head or neck area while considered defenseless. Previously, a receiver was considered defenseless only while catching a pass or attempting to catch one, but not on a pass that is intercepted or deflected well in front of him.

–Illegal peel-back blocks, which are low blocks thrown when an offensive player is moving back toward his own goal line, will apply to all players on the line of scrimmage, not just players within the tackle box. The block is not considered illegal, though, if the blocker gets his near shoulder all the way across the body of the player he’s trying to block.

–Defensive players pushing teammates across the line of scrimmage on a punt is now illegal. Previously, that rule only applied on field goals and PATs.

–Reducing fighting and other altercations will be a point of emphasis, with penalties and/or fines assessed to players who willingly enter the area of an altercation or fail to leave that area when able to. Pulling an opponent off a pile around a loose ball will also be strongly discouraged.

–The rule defining a completed catch has been modified slightly to indicate that the process of a catch is completed when the receiver clearly becomes a runner. A receiver whose own momentum is carrying him to the ground, however, must still maintain control of the ball all the way to the ground for the pass to be ruled complete. The Dez Bryant play in the Packers-Cowboys playoff game last January would still be ruled incomplete.

The most dramatic rule change for the new season, of course, involves extra points. The team that scores a touchdown can now decide whether to place the ball on the 15-yard line and try a one-point kick (a 33-yarder) or place the ball on the 2-yard line and try for a two-point conversion. In either case, the defense can now return a blocked kick or a fumble or interception to the other end zone for two points.

Interestingly, the officials explained that the offense’s decision to go for one or two points can be changed if a penalty occurs on the attempt. For example, if during a one-point PAT from the 15-yard line the defense jumps offside, the offense has two choices — it can take the 5-yard penalty and move the line of scrimmage to the 10 and try the one-point PAT, or it can take a half-the-distance-to-the-goal penalty from the 2-yard line, place the ball on the 1 and then go for two points.

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