DANA POINT, Calif. -- There will be a few tweaks to the NFL game this year, but the biggest concern the league's competition commitee has is with player safety.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, co-chair of the competition committee with Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, said several areas will be made points of emphasis this season to help guard the players' health.
The horse-collar tackle, which is a 15-year penalty, will be watched closer. Defenseless receivers can not be hit with a shoulder or a forearm to the head by the tackler. That joins helmet-to-helmet contact as now being subject to a penalty. And defenders cannot be blocked high to the head after a turnover anymore, much like Pittsburgh receiver Hines Ward did to Cincinnati linebacker Keith Rivers last season.
The committee also wants to make it illegal for a defender to go low on a quarterback with force. That's what I call the Tom Brady rule. Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard went low, and Brady was lost for the season. That would now be subject to a 15-yard penalty. A player can go low by grasping, but not using force.
Two other changes will come with replay. The incomplete-fumble call, otherwise known as the "Ed Hochuli call," would now be subject to review. In the past, it was reviewable, but not if the official blew the play dead. It would be now if it is determined that the defense recovered the football. In the past, it was dead as soon as the referee ruled it over.
The other involves whether a kickoff goes out of bounds and is recovered by the kicking team. That situation came up in the Philadelphia-Arizona playoff game. The Cardinals recovered the kick, but the play was blown dead because the ruling was the ball went out of bound. It never did. Now that could be a reviewable play.