NFL’s Possible Ban On Leaping Over The Line Is One Step Closer To Reality

By Matt Dolloff, CBS Boston

BOSTON (CBS) — The NFL is one step closer to banning a play that is certainly dangerous for players, but undeniably fun to watch for fans.

According to a new report by the Washington Post’s Mark Maske, the competition committee is expected to propose an official ban on leaping over the line of scrimmage when NFL owners meet next week in Phoenix. Patriots linebacker Shea McClellin successfully executed the play against the Baltimore Ravens in Week 14 and nearly pulled it off again in Super Bowl LI against the Atlanta Falcons.

The NFL’s 32 owners will meet next week in Phoenix to consider the competition committee’s proposals, which are expected to be officially submitted later this week.

Other potential proposals involve automatic suspensions for certain kinds of illegal hits, clarified rules regarding excessive celebrations, and a more streamlined instant replay process. The competition committee does not feel that fines have been effective enough of a deterrent for players who commit egregious hits during games. The new replay process is expected to use a team from the NFL league office assisting referees with replay reviews in order to make the process more efficient and consistent.

As for changes to the rules on excessive celebrations, it’s likely that the competition committee will make it more of a “point of emphasis” for referees rather than an official proposal. But Maske reported that the new point of emphasis will allow for “quick and spontaneous” celebrations that are “not offensive and involve no props.”

Any and all of these proposals have the potential to have the opposite effect of their intentions, which would be to make things simpler and easier to understand. It’s nice that the league would like to allow “quick and spontaneous” celebrations and weed out the premeditated variety, but where will they draw the line on whether or not a celebration is “offensive?” Gun or bow-and-arrow gestures may be considered offensive, but in most cases, they would also be quick and spontaneous.

The new replay process could certainly be easier for referees and make for more consistent officiating, which any NFL fan would like. But it could also be another step toward making replay available on every single play, which would threaten to bog games down even more than they already have been.

The ban on leaping over the line of scrimmage is a reasonable measure to take for the sake of player safety. The opportunity for the play doesn’t present itself very often in the first place and it’s dangerous for both the leaping player and anyone who could make contact with him. But the rarity of the play is also a point of emphasis for those who defend its existence; banning such a rare play could set a dangerous precedent for future rule changes that would threaten to further water down the NFL product in the name of “player safety.”

How do you feel about the NFL’s proposed rule changes? Share your thoughts in the comments.

Matt Dolloff is a writer for CBSBostonSports.com. Any opinions expressed do not necessarily reflect that of CBS or 98.5 The Sports Hub. Have a news tip or comment for Matt? Follow him on Twitter @mattdolloff and email him at mdolloff@985thesportshub.com.

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