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By Brien O’Donal
It is now officially past the halfway point in the NFL offseason and to make sure you keep talking about them (and I keep writing about them) the NFL introduced its latest rule changes. I know OTA’s are in full swing and every player looks like a superstar in shorts and t-shirts, but fans have started to get smarter about how much attention they actually give them. In order to keep their attention the league picked this time to release the new rules and start at least another week or two of interest. After that, no one knows what they’ll talk about.
Let’s dig right in, shall we? Overtime for preseason and regular season games has been shortened from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. The driving force behind this is the league’s push for player safety more than anything else. But don’t think that TV ratings weren’t another factor. The longer the games are the more risk a player on the field has of getting injured and the less time they have to recover before the next game. This is especially true for prime time games like Sunday and Monday night. Overtimes games are not a common occurrence but players don’t want even one late night overtime game to affect their ability to rest before the next week. Limiting the number of plays on the field that a player plays decreases their risk of significant injury. That’s a win for player safety and overall improvement of the game.
Ratings have to be factored in here too. Overtime games in local markets have to be aired even at the expense of other nationally televised late games. This means that when the Rams vs. Jets game goes into overtime, two of the largest TV markets are shut out from watching the Cowboys vs. Packers until overtime is concluded. Ending that sooner gets more eyes on the featured game. Player safety: yes. Ratings: double yes.
Speaking of ratings; it seems the NFL was tired of being called the No Fun League and decided to relax a bit. The rules regarding touchdown celebrations have been changed as to not penalize most celebrations that use the ball as a prop, group celebrations, and going to the ground for a celebration. This should have been common sense a long time ago. There are still prohibitions against mimicking the use of a weapon, taunting other players, long celebrations that delay the game, and lewd celebrations. These are all compromises we can live with. I just don’t want to see any more flags thrown for reasonable celebrations after a touchdown that change the field position game and influence the overall outcome.
My only question is; when will the training video for this rule change be released? I wonder if they will use generic actors with no athleticism or dance skills to demonstrate acceptable celebrations. Maybe they will just show highlights from previous celebrations with either a big X or a check mark added over the top. I’m sure whatever they do I will imagine it hilarious to think of a bunch of old men in ownership yelling “Harrumph” over and over when reviewing the tape. Whatever happens, the big picture is that allowing players to really celebrate their touchdowns will stop fans from being annoyed and make the game a little more entertaining. That should drive ratings back up and that means more money. We all win in that scenario, right?
This topic should drive the conversation and keep people at least a little bit interested in football during one of its more boring phases. After all, I’m only writing about it to keep you reading my stories and drive ratings to this site. See, it’s a win-win.