NFL Rule changes for 2006

There are several new rules in the NFL in 2006. The NFL Competition Committee spends the early part of the offseason examining existing rules, and suggesting possible changes to the rules.

Rules changes are then voted upon by the teams at the NFL Annual Meeting in the spring. No matter what the changes, NFL players and coaches know they have to be cognizant of them.

"Our approach to the game is the same as it always is: to know the rules and to play within them," says New England Patriots head coach Bill Belichick.

New NFL rules for 2006:
• Down by contact calls may be reviewed by instant replay. Previously, a fumble was not reviewable if the ball carrier was ruled down by contact. If the ruling of down by contact is changed, the ball belongs to the recovering player at the spot of the recovery of the fumble.
Reason for the change: Provides a mechanism for correcting an obvious on-field officiating error.

• Each instant replay review will be a maximum of 60 seconds in length. Previously, instant replay could last up to 90 seconds.
Reason for the change: Shortens game length.

• Individual players are prohibited from using foreign objects or the football while celebrating. They are also prohibited from engaging in any celebrations while on the ground. A celebration shall be deemed excessive or prolonged if a player continues to celebrate after a warning from an official. Previously, players were not prohibited from using props or celebrating on the ground.
Reason for the change: Promotes sportsmanship.

• If possible, rushing defenders must make a conscious effort to avoid low hits on the quarterback. Previously, defenders were not compelled to make a conscious effort to avoid low hits if momentum was a factor. Penalty: Roughing the passer, loss of 15 yards.
Reason for the change: Player safety.

• The prohibition against blocking in the back above the waist applies to a player of the kicking team while the ball is in flight during a scrimmage kick. Previously, this was not a foul. Penalty: Loss of 10 yards.
Reason for the change: Player safety.

• All players are prohibited from grabbing the inside collar of the back of the shoulder pads or jersey, or the inside collar of the side of the shoulder pads or jersey, and immediately pulling down the runner. This does not apply to a runner who is in the tackle box or to a quarterback who is in the pocket. Previously, the "horse-collar" tackle rule did not include the back of the shoulder pads or jersey. This increases the scope of the rule. Penalty: Loss of 15 yards.
Reason for the change: Player safety.

• During a field goal attempt or a PAT, any defensive player within one yard of the line of scrimmage at the snap must have his helmet outside the snapper's shoulder pad. This will provide protection to the snapper, who is in a defenseless position. Penalty: Illegal formation, loss of five yards.
Reason for the change: Player safety.

• No more than six players can line up on the same side of a formation on a kickoff. Previously, teams could "load up" one side with more players for onside kicks.
Reason for the change: Player safety.

• If there is a personal foul or unsportsmanlike conduct foul that is (a) not in the continuing action immediately after the end of a down and (b) occurs between the end of the second period and the beginning of the third period (or between the end of the fourth and beginning of OT), the penalty shall be enforced on ensuing kickoff. Previously, these penalties were not carried over.
Reason for the change: Provides uniform enforcement for personal or unsportsmanlike conduct fouls throughout the game.

• If there is a foul during a scrimmage kick or a free kick prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball, the offended team will have the option of taking the penalty at the previous spot and replaying the down or adding the penalty yardage on to the end of the play. Previously, the offended team could either take the penalty and replay the down or decline the penalty and take the result of the play.
Reason for the change: Eliminates re-kicks.

• If an offensive foul is a foul by the kicking team prior to a player of the receiving team securing possession of the ball during a down in which there is a safety kick, scrimmage kick, or free kick, the period may be extended by an untimed down, if the defense accepts the penalty. This provides the option for a receiving team to extend a period if a kicking team commits a foul prior to a change of possession. Reason for change: Eliminates fouling to obtain an unfair advantage.

• Teams can now opt to take the result of the play OR replay the down when there is an inadvertent whistle. Previously, an inadvertent whistle would force the down to be replayed without exception. Reason for the change: Current rule too punitive.

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