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Rule changes for 2007 NFL season


League officials will have some new rules and points of emphasis to consider as they gear up for the beginning of the 2007 NFL season.

Spikes, holds and instant replay were just a few of the topics discussed during a presentation of 2007 NFL rules changes held for the media at Reliant Stadium on Friday. A team of three league officials, led by line judge Byron Boston, presented a video that outlined recent NFL rule changes as well as new points of emphasis regarding the enforcement of certain existing rules.

One of the most notable rule changes is the introduction of a five-yard, delay of game penalty for spiking the ball after a play. This rule does not apply to scoring plays or to an out-of-bounds play, so a simple spike is still an allowable form of celebration after a touchdown. However, if a runner is not ruled down by contact and the ball is spiked, the ball is live and will result in either an illegal forward pass penalty (if the ball is spiked forward) or, if the ball is spiked backward, the ball will remain live and the spike will be considered a fumble.

Another change eliminates the penalty assessed when a forward pass is touched inadvertently by an ineligible player (i.e., a pass hits an offensive lineman in the back). However, if that player is the intended receiver, the illegal touching penalty will be assessed. Also, instant replay has been instituted as a permanent part of the game, with the league scheduling an equipment upgrade to accommodate HDTV replay review by the beginning of the 2007 season. And in a move that will certainly please fans, the maximum replay review time has been reduced from 90 to 60 seconds.

The rule regarding pylon touchdown dives also has been revisited and clarified. Previously, a player just had to have some portion of his body over the goal line or pylon to count a touchdown, but the rule has been revised for 2007 to make it necessary to have the ball touch the pylon or break the plane above the pylon to count as a touchdown.

The officials also cited points of emphasis involving prevailing rules that will see closer attention. These areas included late hits on the quarterback, defensive holding on receivers, taunting and helmet-to-helmet hits. In light of recent reports concerning post-concussion syndrome, the league also has decided to tightly enforce its rule requiring players to wear fully attached chinstraps, instead of leaving one buckle undone.

During the question period of the presentation, Boston was asked about actions the league has taken to prevent a situation similar to that of NBA official Tim Donaghy, who allegedly fixed the outcome of games as part of an organized sports betting operation.
Boston, citing the NFL's background check policy, prohibitions involving gambling, the use of instant replay and meticulous league oversight, said he feels confident that a similar scandal could not occur in professional football.

"The league office goes through every play of every game," Boston said. "If there is anything that is out of order, our games are so scrutinized that it would be very easy to detect. I think that it would be just very difficult for an official to impact a game, because there are so many checks and balances in effect."

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