ORLANDO, Fla. — The NFL is pleased with its product as it heads toward the 2014 season.
Eighteen times in 2013, teams overcame a 14-point deficit, tying a league record, according to Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL’s competition committee. Almost half of the games were decided by seven or fewer points.
An all-time best 46.8 points were scored and 697 yards were gained per game, yet the NFL’s five best defenses — Seattle, Carolina, Cincinnati, New Orleans and San Francisco — all made the postseason and won at least 11 regular-season games, proving that it’s not just offense that matters, McKay said.
“I think 2013 ... was a very good year for the game on the field,” he said during a recent conference call. “From a competitive standpoint, we feel very good about where the game (has) been for a ... long time now.”
But that doesn’t mean the NFL is satisfied. So the league will host its annual meeting here from Monday to Wednesday to review and possibly vote on proposed changes to 13 rules, modifications to seven bylaws and one resolution with the goal of improving on-field action or making it safer.
It’s also likely there will be much discussion on the NFL’s intention to limit the use of racial or homophobic slurs on the gridiron following the Miami bullying scandal and the recent coming out of draft prospect Michael Sam, who’s trying to become the first openly gay player in the league.
That isn’t a new rule, but the league has generated plenty of headlines by saying it will emphasize the enforcement of a regulation that already exists to prohibit such language.
Here’s a guide to what’s on tap:
Rules changes considered
1. Move kickoffs to the 40-yard line, mostly for safety reasons.
2. Expand instant replay to include personal foul penalties.
3. Eliminate overtime periods in preseason games, for player safety reasons. (Nos. 1-3 pitched by Washington.)
4. Extend goal posts an additional 5 feet above the crossbar to make rulings easier on field goal tries.
5. Move the line of scrimmage for extra points to the defensive team’s 25 to make the point-after more challenging.
6. Put fixed cameras on all boundary lines — sideline, end line and end zone — to supplement TV cameras for replay purposes.
7. Permit a coach to challenge any official’s decision, except automatically reviewed scoring plays, to make full use of the replay system. (Nos. 4-7 from New England.)
8. Prohibit blockers from rolling up on the side of the legs of defenders for player safety reasons. For now, it’s only illegal to roll up on the back of defenders’ legs.
9. Allow on-field referees to consult with the league’s officiating department in New York during replay reviews.
10. Reorganize list of reviewable plays to make it easier to read. Also, allow reviews and reversals of plays that are whistled dead and when there’s a clear recovery of a loose ball.
11. Don’t stop the clock on sacks. The NFL allows stoppages on sacks except for the final two minutes of each half.
12. Allow pass interference to be called up to the line of scrimmage. For now, acts that do not occur more than 1 yard beyond the line of scrimmage aren’t pass interference but can be defensive holding.
13. Enforce defensive fouls behind the line of scrimmage at the previous spot and not where the play ended or where fouls are committed. (Nos. 8-13 by competition committee.)
Bylaw changes considered
1. Raise the number of active-list players from 46 to 49 for regular-season games played on days other than Sunday or Monday, excluding the opening weekend of the season. For player safety reasons.
2. Raise the practice squad limit from eight players to 10. For player safety reasons.
3. Permit clubs to trade players before the start of the league year.
4. Eliminate the preseason roster cutdown to 75 players and have just one cutdown to 53. For safety and player development reasons.
5. Permit more than one player to return to the active list from injured reserve during the season, providing more roster flexibility. (Nos. 1-5 from Washington.)
6. Permit teams to time and test, at their facility, 10 players who attended the Scouting Combine even if they don’t live or go to school in teams’ metro areas. Permit clubs to attend timing or testing at another club’s facility if it involves three or more draft-eligible players. (From Philadelphia.)
7. Adjust time of roster reduction to 53 on Saturday after fourth preseason game from 6 p.m. Eastern to 4 p.m., for procedural reasons. (From competition committee.)
Permit home teams with a retractable roof or wall to open or close at halftime. Aimed at maximizing fan experience as it relates to weather. (From Indianapolis.)
— In what will be unpopular news to Saints fans who love watching All-Pro tight end Jimmy Graham dunk the ball over the crossbar after he scores, the NFL may consider a ban of the celebration, according to ProFootballTalk.com. This could be a reaction to his causing a delay after he bent the crossbar out of alignment in a road win at Atlanta in November. Graham’s reaction on Twitter: “NOOOO!”
— On a conference call, Rams coach and competition committee member Jeff Fisher said the prohibition of slurs on the field falls under the rule governing unsportsmanlike conduct. “The officials will be empowered to call a foul if there are racial slurs or statements regarding another player’s sexual orientation, or even baiting and insulting with verbal abuse,” Fisher said. “It is going to be a very significant point of emphasis.”
— NFC coaches, including the Saints’ Sean Payton, are slated to meet with media Wednesday.