COLUMBUS - Hey, Ocho Cinco, don't spike that ball unless you want a five-yard penalty.
Among the rule changes in the NFL this year is one which assesses a five-yard delay-of-game penalty for spiking the ball after a play. Since the rule doesn't apply to scoring plays or to out-of-bounds plays, Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver No. 85 Chad Johnson will still be free to practice his artistic expression after scoring a touchdown.
But the pros aren't the only ones who'll have to learn the nuances of new rules.
Perhaps the most noticeable rule change comes at the college level. Beginning this fall, teams will kick off from the 30-yard line rather than the 35, which should result in more returns.
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel wishes he still had returner extraordinaire Ted Ginn Jr., who jumped to the pros after his junior year.
"I kinda wish they had changed it last year when No. 7 was back there," he said.
Not everyone is thrilled by the change.
"The claim is it will speed up the game," said Purdue coach Joe Tiller. "The most violent play in all of football is the kickoff. So now they're moving back five yards so we can create more
g-forces as these kids are running into each other. So I'm not in favor of [it] What's it going to do? It's probably going to add a few more injuries we didn't have in the past."
The NCAA also turned back the clock. Officials will now start the clock on the snap after a change of possession, as opposed to the rule instituted only last season which started the clock when the referee signaled the ball ready for play. Similarly, the clock will start on kickoffs only when the ball is legally touched in the field of play.
At the high-school level, officials will be putting extra emphasis on helmet-to-helmet contact to prevent injuries, plus a white line will be put around the field to help make it easier for referees to handle traffic and give coaches a clearer view of the field.
In addition to the ruling on spiking the ball, the NFL eliminated the penalty assessed when a forward pass is inadvertently touched by an ineligible player (such as when a pass hits an offensive lineman in the back). In addition, instant replay was instituted as a permanent part of the game, with the league scheduling an equipment upgrade to accommodate high definition replay review by the beginning of the 2007 season.
The best news for fans might be that the maximum replay review time has been reduced from 90 to 60 seconds.
In other tweaks of the rule book:
•Rather than just having to have some portion of his body over the goal line or the pylon to score a touchdown, now a ball carrier must have the ball touch the pylon or break the plane above the pylon to score.
•With all the talk of postconcussion syndrome, the NFL will tightly enforce its rule requiring players to fully snap their chin straps instead of leaving one buckle undone.
In the college ranks, there was talk of capping the time at two minutes for officials reviewing a replay, but a rules committee withdrew that proposal because of the possibility of technical delays and other issues.
New rules which were instituted a year ago shaved 14 minutes off of the average game time, but the NCAA decided to scale those back because of complaints from coaches and others.
"Last year's game lost too many plays, but it accomplished the need to shorten the overall time it takes to play a game," said Michael Clark, chairman of the NCAA rules committee and the head coach at Bridgewater (Va.) College. "The changes we have made for 2007 balance both of these issues."
Forms of blocking, face tackling and spearing will be emphasized in an attempt to cut back on injuries.
The national federation also formulated a definition of a
flagrant foul, an often-used term in the rules book but which previously was not specifically defined. A flagrant foul is now defined as a foul that may or may not involve physical contact, but involves such acts as fighting, coming in contact with a game official, fouls so severe as to place an opponent at risk, persistent or extreme abusive conduct and the use of vulgar language or gestures.
Among other changes:
•Teams may choose, when there is a foul by the opponent of a team scoring a touchdown, to have the penalty enforced either on the point-after attempt or on the ensuing kickoff.
•A four-inch-wide broken restraining line is now required around the outside of the field, where possible, and the line must be at least two yards from the sidelines and end lines. The line is a safety feature for players, officials and sideline media, helping the officials to have a clearer view of the sidelines and also giving coaches a better sight line.