One thing about the National Football League is they are always tinkering with the rules, searching for ways to improve upon the game. The most noticeable change when play picks back up on September 5 will be an expansion of the instant replay rule. Much like all scoring plays became subject to a booth review a year ago, the same process now applies following all turnovers as well.
Before play can resume after a fumble or interception, an official upstairs will replay the call on the field, and determine whether or not it merits further review.
It's a welcome addition to the system, considering how much turnovers swing the momentum, not to mention the frequency with which the call on the field winds up being incorrect. How often has a runner's knee touched the ground before the ball popped out, or an errant throw actually skipped off the turf before the defensive back "intercepted" the pass?
The Eagles were on the wrong end of such a call last season in Week 2 at Atlanta. A Michael Vick interception in the third quarter had clearly touched the ground, but by the time the NBC telecast showed an angle revealing the mistake, the Falcons offense was on the field, and the opportunity to challenge was lost. The Birds went on to blow a 10-point lead, falling 35-31.
Unfortunately, what failed to pass was a measure that would have allowed the replay official in the booth to rule on reviews. Rather than have an on-field official watch the replay, the booth official upstairs would make the decision to uphold or overturn calls instead. The thought process was it would cut down on the length of reviews, but for now, it's not to be.
The other major rule change will be a change in the overtime format -- pay attention, Donovan. Basically, the league will adopt the current playoff procedure in the regular season as well.
The rule, originally passed in 2010, was implemented for the first time in January when the Denver Broncos defeated the Pittsburgh Steelers in extra time. To summarize, the game cannot be won with a field goal on the period's opening possession. In any other situation, overtime is still sudden death.
No real game-changers other than that, though more potential changes could be coming before football returns. Current items for review are moving the trade deadline back, expanded rosters in training camp, allowing players to return from injured reserve, and another Eagles-fan favorite: preventing away teams from traveling more than one time zone for Thursday night games.
>> NFL Rule Changes for 2012 [PFT]