NFL officials here to talk rule changes

13 hours ago • By Joe Lyons jlyons@post-dispatch.com 636-493-9675

An NFL officiating crew headed by referee Bill Leavy made a rules presentation to the Rams on Thursday evening and to the media on Friday morning.

The crew, which also included field judge Boris Cheek, head linesman John McGrath, side judge Keith Parham and developmental head linesman Patrick Turner, worked during Rams’ practices Thursday and Friday and also will work at the Fan Fest workout today at the Edward Jones Dome.

Some notable NFL rule changes for 2013.

• Players are no long allowed to make contact with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box. If a player lines up an opponent, lowers his head and delivers a forcible blow, a 15-yard unnecessary roughness penalty will be assessed.

“There’s huge potential for injuries on plays like this and when you see them on tape, they’re pretty obvious,’’ McGrath said, noting that in an NFL review of plays from last year, just five fit the new rule.

Rams running back Daryl Richardson doesn’t think the new rule will impact his game.

“You run on instinct, depending on the situation you’re in. As far as making contact, I’m going to keep my head up and drop my shoulder,” the 5-foot-10, 206-pound second-year back said. “Really, I’ve never tried to run over anybody anyway.’’

• The infamous “tuck rule’’ is no more. Once the quarterback stops his passing motion and the ball comes free, it’s a fumble.

“There’s still a fine line there, obviously, but now when the play is ruled a fumble on the field, it’ll more than likely stay a fumble,” Leavy said.

• On all kicking plays, defenders can no longer block below the waist or push other players into the line. In addition, teams will no longer be able to stack one side of the line of scrimmage with more than six players.

• Also on kicking plays, the long snapper is now considered a defenseless player and may not be engaged until he becomes an active blocker.

• As a safety measure, thigh pads and knee pads are now mandatory for all players. This rule, Leavy stressed, will be enforced by the NFL’s uniform inspector, who will, in turn, alert the game officials to the violations.

• Peel-back blocks, in which an offensive player blocks a defender below the waist from either in front or from the side, will now draw a 15-yard penalty.

• The rules have been amended to change the penalty for an erroneous challenge. If a coach throws a challenge flag on a play that either cannot be reviewed or is automatically reviewed, the team will lose a timeout and the review of the play will continue. In the past, if a play was challenged erroneously, the play could not be reviewed.

• Taunting, including spiking or spinning the ball in the direction of an opponent, will result in a 15-yard unsportsmanlike behavior penalty.

“Most of (the new rules) are player safety related,” coach Jeff Fisher said. “We just have to watch the helmet-to-helmet contact, specifically with the crown of the helmet. We saw the video last night; it was very, very clear as to what you can do and what you can’t do.’’

RAMBLINGS

Friday’s practice, which drew 786, started outside but moved inside after about 45 minutes because of weather concerns.

“We were in constant contact with the weather people; when the lightning gets within 20 miles, we’re going to come inside,’’ Fisher said.

And it takes a lot for Fisher to move practice inside, especially when it means working with a 90-man roster on an 80-yard field.

“Yeah, but it doesn’t take a lot of lightning to get me indoors,’’ he quipped.

PRACTICE SCHEDULE

The second annual Fan Fest is today at the Edward Jones Dome. Gates open at 9:30 a.m. for season ticket holders and 11:30 a.m. for the general public. The team will take the field for practice at 12:30 p.m.There is no practice Sunday. The team will return to Earth City for 3:30 p.m. practices on Monday and Tuesday. The Rams will make their preseason debut Thursday at 7 p.m. against the Browns in Cleveland.