Everyone Celebrates America’s Game

By Lloyd Vance, BASN Staff Reporter
Updated: September 11, 2009

NFL PHILADELPHIA (BASN) — Since April 9th when the 2009 NFL regular season schedule was released one date has been circled by football fans everywhere, it was September 10, 2009.

“What is the significance of that date?”, someone who has had his or her head in the sand may ask. That day just happens to be the start of the 90th season of the National Football League -or I like to say ” America’s Passion” – with the catchy moniker “Own the Moment”.

As the 2009 season takes center stage, hope springs eternal in places like San Diego, Minnesota, and Detroit. Yes, I said Detroit as even the formerly winless Lions (0-16 in 2008), who have never to a Super Bowl have visions of dancing in the streets of Miami, FL with the Lombardi Trophy in their hands at Super Bowl XLIV.

In 2008, change was definitely in the air around the NFL as for the 13th consecutive season, five or more teams qualified for the playoffs that were not in the postseason the year before ( Arizona, Atlanta, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Minnesota, Miami and Carolina).

Also there were seven new division winners ( Tennessee, NY Giants, Minnesota, Chargers, Miami, Carolina, and Arizona) setting a new record since realignment in 2002, topping the six new division winners of 2003.

Sure hope for the upcoming season could be washed away as quickly as October for some. But for now every NFL fan is anxiously awaiting NFL kickoff like kids racing down the steps on Christmas morning to see what Santa brought them.

The season got under way Thursday Night as the defending Super Bowl champion Pittsburgh Steelers nipped the Tennessee Titans 13-10 in overtime on NBC – sixth consecutive year the Super Champion play in the first game of the NFL season.

It is only fitting that the start of the United States’ most popular game — According to Nielsen Media Research, 225 million Americans watched NFL regular-season games in 2008.

That’s nearly 100 million more than the record number of Americans who voted in the 2008 presidential election (131.2 million) – will open it’s season in grandiose form.

The NFL started play in 2009 with arguably the league’s most successful franchise – 6 Super Bowl Championships for the Steelers – which should have probably enough, but the NFL wanted to make sure fans had some showbiz glitz too.

That was taken care of by a kickoff event titled “NFL Opening Kickoff 2009 presented by EA SPORTS” at Pittsburgh’s PointState Park. The free concert faetured three-time Grammy Award-winning artists Tim McGraw and The Black Eyed Peas.

With all of the hype surrounding the start of the 2009 NFL Regular Season, it has to makes you wonder how pioneers Jim Thorpe, Fritz Pollard, Red Grange and others ever got the fledgling league off the ground in the 1920′s and 1930′s when times were tough and professional football was considered a renegade sport.

Though the NFL is now a year round league with Training Camp, Pre-season Games, OTA’s, the NFL Draft, Rookie Symposium, Owner Meetings, and so many other activities on the NFL Calendar– this page it too small to list them all – nothing gets fans going to the point of delirium like NFL game day.

Bigger than any holiday, NFL game day is a once a week fan fest (this week there are three NFL game days, but who cares). People always ask me “How does the NFL always get people wanting more?”

I am not sure if it is the quick five month schedule where the games come and go before we know it, the long arduous 7 month wait for real games after the Super Bowl, the once a week high, the “every game counts” subplots, a league-wide thought pattern of “taking a night off is not an option”, the talented players that always amaze you with their toughness and ability to perform under mental and physical stress, the autumn weather, team allegiance, trash-talking, the dreaded g-word (gambling), fantasy football, or any other thing.

But we all know that the NFL is everyone’s sports obsession like none other. Honestly, my mother who never watches sports and doesn’t know a Touchdown from a Homerun even said to me the other day “Who are the Eagles playing this Sunday?”

If I close my eyes — I can smell tailgate barbecues, see fans enjoying a cold pre-game beer, see high definition televisions flying off the shelves at Best Buy, Direct TV NFL Sunday Ticket subscriptions selling in by the hundreds of thousands, and sports bars filling up everywhere as fans finally have their beloved “NFL” back.

I have to agree with the executives at Fox, NBC, ESPN, CBS, and the NFL Network that pay billions for the rights to broadcast NFL games that everyone is watching from the guy working at the local convenience store to President Barack Obama (supporter of the Pittsburgh Steelers). You can also count me among the millions and soon to billions of NFL fans around the world who are singing “Hallelujah, Hallelujah, The NFL is back”.

Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said of the upcoming season, “I’m excited about getting things started in 2009…We simply are just going to prepare and attack the challenges that lie ahead for us.” Tomlin added, “We have to be a driven group. We have to seek greatness.”

You are right coach Tomlin as greatness is what matters most to NFL fans and players with everyone wanting a Lombardi Trophy for their case. Super Bowl XLIV on February 7, 2010 will be here before we know it, so enjoy the games because every week in the NFL is truly special and the season goes too fast!!!

To celebrate the NFL returning, I have compiled a list of tidbits surrounding the start of the NFL regular season.

America’s Game is becoming the “World’s Game” – For the third year in a row the NFL invades Merry Ole England in the regular season as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers face the New England Patriots at London’s Wembley Stadium on October 25 — the game will be broadcast on CBS in the United States and on Sky Sports and BBC in the United Kingdom. Closer to home, the Buffalo Bills will host the New York Jets on December 3rdin Toronto (NFLN, 8:20 PM ET), this will be the Bills’ third of eight games over a five-year span at the Rogers Centre.

The NFL to celebrate former rival league – Though the “true” 50-year anniversary doesn’t really occur until 2010, the NFL will be celebrating the birth of the American Football League (AFL) during the 2009 season. If you can believe it back in 1960 during the AFL’s inaugural season, the NFL waged war against their “smaller “upstart foe. However after 10 years, the NFL decided it was time for the two leagues to come together – I think the Jets’ Super Bowl III victory over the Colts had a little something to with the merger.

This year, the NFL will celebrate the 50th season of the American Football League (AFL) in a number of ways. During one home and one road game, the eight original AFL franchises – Buffalo Bills, Denver Broncos, Kansas City Chiefs (played as the Dallas Texans), New England Patriots (played as the Boston Patriots), New York Jets (played as the Titans of New York), Oakland Raiders, San Diego Chargers (played as the Los Angeles Chargers) and Tennessee Titans (played as the Houston Oilers) – will meet head-to-head in “Legacy Games” while wearing an historic uniforms.

The Monday-night doubleheader on Kickoff Weekend will serve as the start of these head-to -head games as New England hosts Buffalo (ESPN, 7:00 PM ET) and San Diego visits Oakland (ESPN, 10:15 PM ET). NFL Films and Showtime have almost teamed up to produce an insightful NFL five-part documentary entitled Full Color Football: The History of the American Football League., The documentary will premier on Wednesday, Sept. 16 at 8 p.m. (ET/PT) on Showtime.

A New Thanksgiving Day Tradition continues - The NFL will continue playing three football games on America’s holiday (November 26th). This year’s line-up features Green Bay Packers at the Detroit Lions (Fox, 12:30 p.m. ET), Oakland Raiders at the Dallas Cowboys (CBS, 4:15 PM ET) — The Raiders’ first Thanksgiving game since 1970 — and the New York Giants visiting the Denver Broncos (NFL Network, 8:20 p.m. ET)

Look for approved uniform modifications

  • All NFL teams will wear a pink ribbon decal on their helmets to celebrate Breast Cancer Awareness Month in October
  • The original eight AFL teams will wear an “AFL” patch during the 16 “AFL Legacy Games”; Each of those eight clubs also has its own patch celebrating the franchise’s 50th season
  • The Detroit Lions will honor the memories of defensive end Corey Smith and director of security Ricky Sandoval with helmet decals
  • The Philadelphia Eagles will honor their former defensive coordinator Jim Johnson, passed away in July after battling cancer, with a “JJ” helmet decal
  • The Oakland Raiders will honor the memory of linebacker Marquis Cooper with a helmet decal
  • The Tampa Bay Buccaneers and New England Patriots will wear an “International Series ” patch during their October 25 game at London’s Wembley Stadium
  • The Tennessee Titans will honor the memory of quarterback Steve McNair with a “9″ helmet decal.
  • The Buffalo Bills will wear a “Toronto Series” patch when they host the New York Jets on December 3 at the Rogers Centre.

NFL Economics are on everyone’s mind - Don’t let Washington Redskins owner Daniel Snyder handing big-ticket free agent defensive tackle Albert Haynesworth a seven-year, $100-million deal with a league-record $41 million in guaranteed money fool you. Yes even the ultra-rich National Football League (revenues reported over $6 Billion for ’08) is partially feeling the crunch of the economy.

Make no bones about it, the NFL maybe looking at a possible work stoppage in 2011. The current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) is set to expire after the 2010 season, so trust me in order for all of the dollars to continue to flow around the league from the television networks to the owners to the players, it behooves everyone to maintain labor peace. However I don’t know about you, but there seems to be an air around the NFL that a lockout is very possible.

New NFLPA Executive Director DeMaurice Smith is a known labor litigator so unlike former NFLPA head Gene Upshaw (noted NFL pacifier) he seems to be ready to fight the owners over issues such as maintaining the nearly 60% of football revenues that are paid to the players.

Smith recently said about the impending CBA labor issues, “There isn’t a day where I don’t hope for peace, but at the same time, there isn’t a day where we won’t prepare for war”. If a new agreement is struck soon, the salary cap is set to expire after the 2009 season with owners threatening a potential lockout in 2011 — the league’s last labor stoppage the 1987 player’s strike.

There are some uncertain times ahead for the NFL economically as there are several big issues lurking, especially an uncapped year looming in 2010, that must be resolved for the league to maintain it’s current lofty status. It will be up to Goodell and Smith to not kill the ‘Golden Goose’ of sports (#1 sports league in America by far in terms of fan interest, revenues, television rating, and merchandising) while being mindful of an economy where NFL fans are losing their jobs at an increasing rate.

I have to agree with Fox Sports analyst Jimmy Johnson who said of the situation, “I think there’s too much money at stake. Everybody involved, owners, players, everybody understands it’s in everybody’s best interest to get a new CBA done”. For fans’ sake, I hope Jimmy is right about a sense of urgency around the NFL as America’s Game will be tarnished by any labor unrest.

Flex scheduling is back - Make sure to check your team’s website because games can be re-scheduled due to year four of “Flex” scheduling. In the final weeks of the NFL season (Weeks 11 through 17), NBC’s Sunday Night football has the option of changing to a more “favorable” game. If NBC opts to change a game’s date/time the other networks can also make moves to their schedule. The whole process must by done up to 12 days prior to the game.

NFL Films America’s Game is back with another edition – The 43rd edition of NFL Films’ Emmy award-winning documentaries is back featuring the Super Bowl XLIII champion Pittsburgh Steelers. The story of the 2008 NFL Champs will be told through the eyse of head coach Mike Tomlin, quarterback Ben Roethlisberger, and safety Troy Polamalu.

Hello, Dallas Cowboys Stadium - Owner Jerry Jones will be opening his new “palace” in Arlington, TX including a Hall of Fame and shopping mall at a cost of $1.6 Billion dollars. The cost is astronumical, but Jones doesn’t seem to mind as he has added state of the art high-definition scoreboards (one that may inhibit high punts) and ammenities like cable television and internet in each Cowboy players locker stall. Jones should get back some of his investment in 2011 as the new stadium will host Super Bowl XLV.

Disgruntled Veterans Staying Put – After all the “Holdout” and unhappiness talk this offseason from disgruntled players Bengals WR Chad Johnson, Browns WR Braylon Edwards, Broncos WR Brandon Marshall, Texans DB Dunta Robinson, Browns WR/KR Josh Cribbs, Eagles DB Sheldon Brown and Cardinals WR Anquan Boldin, all of the players listed should be in uniform for their teams. As a caller once said to me on a sports radio show, “You signed the contract… so honor it” i.e. either play for your team or go pound sand.

Rookies Better Watch Their Pockets – With rookie guaranteed money reaching $40 Million dollars (QB Matthew Stafford got from the Lions a 6-year, 72 Million Deal w/ 41 Million guaranteed), a rookie salary cap is in the NFL’s future in the next CBA. Can you believe Stafford got more up front money than Colts future hall of fame quarterback Peyton Manning (Signed a seven-year, $99.2 million contract. The deal included a $34.5 million signing bonus).

Commissioner Roger Goodell said in a recent interview about a possible rookie cap, “I’m a big fan of the rookie salary cap… I think that it is very much in the best interest of our veteran players, being able to be rewarded for what they achieve on the NFL field, and to the kind of money that’s being guaranteed for rookies that have not played – there’s still a question of whether they can play at the NFL level. That’s something that I don’t think is appropriate, and I think it’s one of the things that we’ve already outlined with the union that we want to discuss and reevaluate it.”

NFL may have a “blackout” problem - No I am not talking about the mass of black clad fans attending Oakland Raiders games. Even though twenty-four of the NFL’s 32 teams did not increase ticket prices going into the season, the league for the first time in awhile may see several cities not being able to show their home games to their fans. Fans in some cities ( San Diego , Jacksonville, and others) just may not be able to pay for tickets when they have more pressing needs, leaving non-soldout games – old NFL rule says non-sellout means a “blackout” of local television.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell recently said of the situation, “As you know, that blackout policy has been in place for several decades. It’s been very good for the game, for the fans, for the teams. We continue to do what we can, knowing what our fans are going through in this environment, to help teams better address the issues fans are facing.” In trying to soothe fans’ fears of not seeing home games, Goodell added “The blackout policy only applies to general admission tickets. It doesn’t apply to club seats and suites. Only non-premium seats… If you look at our blackout projections now, even the worst case, 80 percent of our blackouts will be lifted and the games shown in the local markets”.

Betting allowed in Delaware…well sort of – Starting in early September, sports fans can wager via the Delaware sports betting lottery. Gamblers will be allowed to plunk down a couple of bucks, or a few thousand, on NFL teams — minimum wagers in the new lottery is $2 and the maximum wager, depending on the type of bet, will be $3,000. Here’s the catch, the only bets allowed are “Parlays” — bettors must pick the correct outcomes of at least three NFL games or as many as twelve. A federal appeals court ruled before the start of the NFL season that the lottery must be restricted to parlays only. Sorry you degenerates out there, unfortunately there will be no single game bets – guess you better get on a plane to Vegas.

Sponsorships on Practice Jerseys – 18 NFL teams will be sporting sponsorship patches on their practice jerseys. NFL owners approved putting sponsor patches on practice jerseys earlier this year. Under NFL rules, teams had until Sept. 1 to finalize deals with one corporate sponsor for a patch on practice jerseys. There is also the possibility of separate deals for the playoffs. NFL teams with practice jersey sponsors include the Miami Dolphins with AT&T, Buffalo Bills with Sanyo, Chicago Bears with Northshore University Healthsystem, Cincinnati Bengals with Spongetech, Dallas Cowboys with the University of Phoenix, Indianapolis Colts with Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, and the New England Patriots with Gillette.

More Regular Season Games?? - NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell seems pretty adamant that he would like to see more regular season games played (from 16 to 17 or 18) by 2011. But there are many hurdles to the expanded game schedule (Player approval, Television Contract changes, Pre-Season length, playoff starting dates, playoff ending dates, the Pro Bowl, injuries, and much more) that will need to be worked out in CBA discussions before the league can move forward with this plan. Goodell said of the plan, “Anytime you have change, there is some reluctance. But it’s clear we don’t need four preseason games anymore.”

No Overtime Changes – Though there has been much discussion around letting both teams having a chance to score in overtime (see the Chargers overtime wildcard win over the Colts), the Competition Committee at the 2009 NFL League Meetings did not vote on any proposals to change any overtime rules. I am okay with the current overtime rules despite the fact that the coin-toss winning team won 63 percent of overtime games in ’08. Most players do not mind the existing overtime format and want to fight it out in sudden death, so I am with them.

Free Agent Tampering – Every year at the free agent start date (12:01 AM) there are already reports that deals were done much earlier — think Albert Haynesworth signing with the Redskins in ’08 and Asante Samuel signing with the Eagles in ’07.

Though there is no league specific rule, the NFL maybe adding to it’s anti-tampering stance. In the meantime, Commisioner Goodell is on the case as shown by his recent comments regarding possible tampering involved with the signing of Redskins DT Albert Haynesworth. Goodell said, “This is not limited to one team, we’re looking at the extent of teams involved in this topic for possible violations.”

The Redskins signed Haynesworth — contract with the Tennessee Titans expired after the 2008 season — to a seven-year, $100 million contract shortly after he became a free agent. After the signing, the Titans complained to the NFL that the Redskins contacted Haynesworth and his agent, Chad Speck, prior to Feb. 27 — thereby violating league rules regarding free agents.

If a club is found to be guilty of tampering, the league could strip it of a draft pick. The last time this happedned was In 2008 when the San Francisco 49ers lost a fifth-round choice after the NFL determined they tampered with Chicago linebacker Lance Briggs during the 2007 season.

The alleged “punch” heard around the NFL – With the NFL cracking down on player violence and off the field activity, an alleged punch could put a “blackeye” on the whole league. The NFL and Napa ( Calif.) police are investigating an alledeged punching incide at the Raiders training camp.

Defensive assistant coach Randy Hanson was injured during an alledged altercation with an unidentified staffer (Tom Cable) on August 5 that sent the assistant to the hospital with facial injuries. The NFL and the police may or may not find any no reason to bring charges against Cable or the Raiders, but this is another ugly incident form the NFL’s biggest dysfunctional family.

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said of the investigation, “The league is continuing its inquiry into an alleged incident last month involving Oakland coach Tom Cable and a Raiders assistant and will wait until local police complete their investigation to act “. Stay tuned as this story will not go away. And Goodell has emphasized that if the allegations prove true, disciplinary action is “possible” against the Raiders and/or Cable.

NFL allows lottery sponsorships - In the league’s ever present motto of “Chasing the Dollar”, the NFL is accepted a proposal to loosen league rules against lottery sponsorships as new revenue streams. The approval allows the NFL to join the NBA and NASCAR in going after lottery revenues. New York Jets owner Woody Johnson, a member of the business ventures committee recently said of the issue, “We have to be as innovative and creative as we can because these are difficult times”. At least 14 NFL franchises have signed deals for sponsored lottery tickets this fall. The Dallas Cowboys stand to make as much as $4.2 million from the team’s new Texas Lottery scratch-off tickets, according to the state contract.

NFL might start another developmental league – If you can believe it…it has been nearly three years since the NFL scrapped their failed NFL Europe developmental league — reportedly was losing about $30 million a season. However with a huge void left from the Arena Football League shutting down for good and the possibility of younger players missing snaps from the removal of 3rd and/or 4th preseason games, there has been talk that the NFL might bring back a minor league product.

Commissioner Goodell recently said of bringing back a developmental league, “The way we look at the developmental league would be mostly in the off-season where players could get those reps and then have the opportunity to play in the NFL as they work into the season”. Goodell added, “If (there) was a developmental league, it should be done for that purpose, for the purpose of developing players. So the commercial aspects, the international aspects, I think those would become secondary”.

I say having a developmental league is a great idea for the NFL. Minor league baseball has thrived forever so the NFL should try to find a way to put a smaller product out there. But please no more developmental games in Europe.

NFL to Sticks with DirecTV — The NFL announced in the spring of 2009 an agreement to extend DirecTV’s rights to carry NFL Sunday Ticket. DirecTV will continue to have exclusive television rights to air the package of Sunday afternoon games through the 2014 season. In securing the incredible rights fee from DirecTV to air games — $1 billion per year from 2011 through 2014 — the NFL got “lockout insurance”. It has been rumored that even if games are not played in 2011, the NFL’s deal with DirecTV calls for the league to collect their billion-dollar rights fee.

Horse Collar Tackles are up – To the dismay of Head of NFL officials Mike Pereira, the NFL’s hot button penalty (horse-collar tackles) increased during the 2008 season. There were 24 horse-collar tackles called up from 12 in ’07 plus there were an additional 47 league fines handed out for the leg-breaking tackling method.

Pereira recently said, “That’s just too high a number, we have not been effective in terms of stopping the tactic.” The head officiator added that crews will make them a point of emphasis along with holding penalties in 2009.

A Brief Look at the ’10 NFL Draft – It is never too early for some research for the 2010 NFL Draft including:Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford, USC Safety Taylor Mays, Tennessee Safety Eric Berry, Florida QB Tim Tebow, Florida DE Carlos Dunlap and many others. But we have until April 2010 to bring you information and draft news about these guys.

Competition Changes

No More Bunches on Kickoffs — The elimination of the bunch formation on kickoffs. Kickoff formations must be evenly balanced. This rule was specifically called out because special teams coaches were finding inventive ways to get around the league’s 2005 rule that called for balanced kickoffs (four players had to line up on each side of the kicker). I know the NFL is calling this a safety issue, but I love the scrum that ensues during onside kicks.

Slicing Wedges on Kickoffs – The elimination of the over two-man man wedges on kickoff returns. Going forward only two men wedges will be considered a legal wedge. Though the NFL is denying it, this rule is basically the “Kevin Everett” rule. The NFL does not want any further injuries from guys trying to bust a large wedge (4 guys) on kickoffs. I will go along with the NFL on this one, though I loved guys like former Eagles special teams star Ken Rose flying into a wedge so their teammates could make a play.

The Hines Ward Rule - The elimination and penalization for helmet-to-helmet contact on blind-side blocks — Now 15 yards and a fine. Are you listening Hines Ward, because this rule is specifically target at you for your open field blow-up of Bengals linebacker Keith Rivers that caused the rising rookie to suffer a season-ending broken jaw injury. Like anyone else I love a great open field block and players should keep their heads on a swivel, but much like a chop block there is a line (intentionally trying to injure a fellow player) that should never be crossed on the football field. When you see the live action replay of the Rivers hit, you can see the young linebacker was totally unaware of Ward coming and he was basically away from the play.

No more head hunting of defenseless WR’s — Expanding the protection of defenseless receivers by eliminating any kind of contact with a receiver’s head area while he is still in the air. A defender must have two feet on the ground before contact to the head – Now 15 yards and a fine. This is another rule directly linked to on the field incidents. In ’08 both receivers Wes Welker (Pittsburgh Steelers safety Ryan Clark forearm) and Anquan Boldin were injured on non-flag head hunting plays. Boldin of course got the worst of any player as he had is face and jaw broke by a couple of New York Jets in the endzone. Though I am all about “Player Safety”, I think this rule is going to be too hard to evaluate in live action. You cannot blame a defender for making a play in a split second and trying to separate a receiver from the ball. I can still remember talking to former Falcons safety Lawyer Milloy after the Falcons-Eagles game in ’08 where he had been flagged for a similar play and he said, “It happened so fast that he could stop his momentum”.

The Ed Hochuli Rule — Expanding reviewable plays to include incomplete passes that result in fumbles. We all know this rule comes directly from referee Ed Hochuli’s gaffe during the Chargers-Broncos game in Week 2 of the ’08 season. Hochuli became public enemy number one, because he blew an inadvertent whistle and review could overturn an obvious fumble by Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler. Anything to help the poor referee is fantastic in my eyes. I can still see Chargers quarterback Phillip Rivers seething over this missed call. My advice to the officials is to “Get the Call Right” the first time and the replay won’t be needed. Head of Officials Mike Pereira recently said that game day crews averaged 98.1 percent accuracy, down slightly from 98.3 in 2007.

Review of out of bounds plays near the sidelines — Expanding reviewable plays to include loose balls ruled out of bounds but recovered in the field of play. Formerly a ball ruled out of bounds was unreviewable. I can still hear Eagles fans yelling about their onside kick attempt in the NFC Championship that the Cardinals recovered despite their player being out of bounds and the officials doing nothing about it. Like the other reviewable change, anything to help the officials “Get it Right”, I am all for it..

No more re-kicks — Extending the rule that currently eliminates automatic re-kicks on illegal onside kicks in the last five minutes of a game so that the rule would be in effect the entire game.

Good… another missed spot on a bad rule fixed. I always used to hate the many re-kicks on game closing kicks back in the day.

Defenders should forget about lunging — This wasn’t a rule change that was voted on, but the NFL decided that defenders who are knocked to the ground can no longer lunge into quarterbacks if the play is still going on. This will be forever be called the “Tom Brady” rule as everyone in the NFL community was heartbroken when Kansas City safety Bernard Pollard took out the league’s MVP in the first game of the 2008 season. You knew as soon as the Brady play happened that the NFL was going to protect their “Golden Boys’ even further. As former Eagles head coach Buddy Ryan used to say, “They should just put flags on the quarterbacks and get it over with”. C’mon let the defensive guys play hard…can anyone tell me if the same kind of measures are taken on chop blocks and zone blocking knee diving blocks.

Waiver Periods re-worked — A waiver period during the first two weeks of training camp was established. Owners also reworded when the postseason waiver period begins – previously it was after the Pro Bowl and now it will be after the final postseason game.

New Draft Order — The Competition Committee passed a bylaw change regarding a new draft order starting in 2010. Draft positions 1-20 will still be determined by regular season records, but positions 21 to 32 will now be based on how the playoffs shake out. I like this rule as everything with the regular season should be thrown out the door when the playoffs start. I think it is terrible that the Chargers (8-8) beat the Colts (12-4) in the wildcard round and because they had a worse regular season record, they be picking earlier in the first round (16th to 28th).

Lateral Fumbles Will Stop the Clock – Now all fumbles and laterals that go out of bounds will stop the game clock. The clock will start when the referee sorts out how the lateral was fumbled/recovered and signals for play to resume. This seems like a minor rule change, so I am fine with the change. But watch somehow we will see a play in ’09 that requires pulling out the rulebook.

What to do with Dallas Cowboys Stadium’s massive scoreboard – The competition committee had to quickly meet after several preseason game punts hit the above field scoreboard (90 feet above the field). With Dallas Cowboys owner standing firm that the NFL approved the scoreboard, rule had to be quickly drafted. Commissioner Goodell said. “The Cowboys have been fully cooperative as we have addressed this subject, and we will continue to work closely with the club on a longer term resolution.”

The NFL’s procedure for the 2009 season will be:

1. If a ball in play strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam, or any other object, the ball will be dead immediately, and the down will be replayed at the previous spot.

2. If there is not an on-field ruling that the ball struck an object, the Replay Assistant is empowered to initiate a booth review, including if the event occurs prior to the two-minute warning. If, prior to the two-minute warning, no booth review is initiated by the Replay Assistant, a coach’s challenge is permitted under the customary procedures for such a challenge.

3. In the event the down is replayed:

(a) The game clock will be reset to the time remaining when the snap occurred.

(b) All penalties will be disregarded, except for personal fouls which will be administered prior to replaying the down.

NEXT: More on Opening Day and other related topics.