Texans chairman and CEO Bob McNair returned to Houston on Tuesday afternoon from the NFL meetings in New Orleans.
In addition to presenting financial reports at the meetings as part of the league's Finance Committee, McNair voted in favor of two rules changes that were passed by an overwhelming majority of the owners. Kickoffs will now be at the 35-yard line instead of the 30, and players on the kickoff coverage team will have to line up within five yards of the 35 to eliminate long running starts. The other rule change allows replay officials to review scoring plays at any time during games.
On Wednesday morning, McNair talked with HoustonTexans.com about the rules changes, the state of labor negotiations and more.
How do you feel about the changes to the kickoff and replay rules?"I think that what we've done makes sense. The overriding issue on the rules that we've been working on really relate to player safety and trying to figure out how to make the game safer for the players without taking the excitement of the game away from the fans. So that's a fine line that you walk. This is a contact sport. It's a very physical sport, and that's the attraction. And so you can't take contact away, but we want to try to manage the game in such a way that even though contact might be violent, it might not be creating injuries."
What do you think about concerns that kickoffs might not be exciting any more?
"Well, we had the kickoffs from the 35 for years, and it was pretty exciting, so I think it'll still be exciting. But we have a very high percentage of the serious injuries that occur in a game occur on kickoffs. And I think the instance of those injuries is about twice as high as it is on other type of plays, a running play or a normal passing play. And even punts; we don't have nearly the injuries on punts as we do on kickoffs."
After meeting with owners and executives from around the league, what are your thoughts on where we stand with the lockout/CBA situation?
"It's clear that all of the owners want to go back to the negotiating table. We just don't believe that we're going to reach an agreement through litigation. That's going to be long and drawn out and not the proper way to do it. So we have been asking the players to come back to the negotiating table and sit down and start discussing the various issues that we have disagreement on."
What would you say to fans and others who are eager to see a deal get done?
"Well, I think that the teams are anxious to get something done. We want to get the players back and start our offseason programs. And all of our scouts and coaches and what have you, they're all working full-time now. We haven't missed a beat so far. So we're ready to do it, but it takes two to negotiate. We can't negotiate with ourselves. Until they agree to come back to the negotiating table, it's really up to the players."
Speaking of the offseason, what's on your schedule moving forward?
"We're still looking at the draft and we're looking at free agents. We're doing the sort of things that we normally do this time of the year. Unfortunately, it's not a vacation for any of us. Everybody is still working very hard, and I don't see that changing, because once we get back to the negotiating table and reach some agreement – and we'll reach an agreement; it's just a question of when – then we need to be in a position to start playing very soon thereafter. And so you have to be prepared."
How excited are you about the upcoming draft, and in particular to see what type of players Wade Phillips and the defensive staff might bring in?"It is exciting, because everybody's got different ideas as to how you accomplish things. I like the way Wade looks at things. It's a little different. He's not quite as structured as some people are. He really looks at it on the basis of number one, are they a football player? And too often because we get so technical and we have the combine and we do all these drills in which everybody is measured against everybody else – that's fine, you see how they stack up in the drills, but that's not playing football. He pays attention to those things. If you can get the perfect player who is just the perfect dimensions and also can play football, that's wonderful, but there are a lot of football players that are good players that maybe they're a defensive lineman but they're not 6-4; maybe they're six feet. And maybe they don't weight 330, they weigh 290, but they make up for maybe a difference in size with speed or agility or courage or hustle or who knows what. And then that's what shows up on the playing field, and that determines whether we think somebody's a player or not."
The Final Four is coming to Reliant Stadium next weekend. Should be great for the city, shouldn't it?"Absolutely. It's a big event, and you've got people coming in from all over the country and tremendous television coverage and discussion. I think it's great we have it in Houston. It's a beautiful time of the year. I think frankly, it helps us in terms of our efforts to get another Super Bowl, just to get all these people here and let them see what a nice city Houston really is."