The NFL Competition Committee will put 13 rule proposals on the table at next week's league meetings. Not included among them is any further crackdown on the n-word or any other abusive language during games.
The committee had considered pushing to make the use of the n-word a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty. The MMQB's Peter King reported earlier this month that it was "unlikely" such a rule would hit the books for the 2014 season, though he predicted that the committee "will urge that it be a point of emphasis for officials this year."
That is precisely what occurred. During a conference call with the media Wednesday, committee chair Rich McKay and committee member Jeff Fisher emphasized that officials can flag players for obscene comments under the current rules.
"As we mentioned earlier, we have the current rule -- unsportsmanlike conduct -- Rule 12, Section
3," Fisher said. "It states that, 'Using abusive, threatening or insulting language, or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the league is unsportsmanlike conduct.'
"The N-word would fall under that category. The officials will be empowered to call a foul if there are racial slurs or statements regarding another player’s sexual orientation, or even bating and insulting with verbal abuse. It falls under that. It is going to be a very significant point of emphasis."
Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome confirmed at the scouting combine last month that the league wanted to take a closer look at what it deemed inappropriate language on the field.
"We did discuss it the past three days," Newsome said. "With any rule that we put into play, we have to look at it from A to Z and find out what are the unintended consequences as well as the [intended] consequences. As it was stated in our meeting, there are [microphones] everywhere; if something is being said, it's probably going to be captured somewhere."
Newsome was then asked if the Competition Committee's discussion had extended beyond use of the n-word, specifically with openly gay prospect Michael Sam about to enter the NFL.
"I don't want to get in front of what the competition committee talked about the past three days, but we did talk about race and gender," Newsome replied.
One rule that will be up for vote among the owners next week is a change to extra points. The Patriots proposed moving extra points back to the 25-yard line (with two-point conversions still occurring from the two, as is the current setup). The league may instead take a small step toward that plan with a separate proposal that would test extra points from the 20-yard line during one week of the 2014 preseason.
No one should think Patriots proposal moving PAT to 25 has a chance to pass this year. It does not. Just talk for now. Change takes time.
— Don Banks (@DonBanks) March 19, 2014
Other proposals that will go to the owners include the elimination of overtime in the preseason; the extension of the goal posts five yards higher to make it easier for officials to judge made kicks; moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line; and to allow officials to consult with the NFL's command center in New York City on replays, similar to how the NHL uses its Toronto war room.
Several bylaws also were pushed forward by the committee, most having to do with roster limits -- one would eliminate the cutdown from 90 to 75 players during the preseason, another would permit teams playing on a Thursday (or Saturday) to carry 49 players on their active rosters as opposed to the usual 46.
The owners meetings run from March 23-26 in Orlando. Last year's rule changes covered everything from eliminating crown-of-the-helmet contact to forcing non-kickers/punters to wear thigh and knee pads.FARRAR: Teams in need of quarterbacks turn to NFL draft for solutions