Denver Broncos wide receiver Demaryius Thomas comes had plenty to do with the new rules for 2012 with his thrilling overtime catch during the Wild Card Playoffs (Ron Chenoy-US PRESSWIRE)

Game Changers: Approved 2012 NFL Rule Changes

Each year the NFL Competition Committee meets to evaluate and propose changes to the game.  From year to year these changes can range from the sensible (the addition of the 2-point conversion in 1994) to the downright absurd (using a prop for an endzone celebration is delightfully egotistical, highly entertaining, and generally hilarious – not a punishable offense).

For the upcoming 2012 season, two new rules were just added to the books:

Injured reserve: teams can now allow one injured player each season to return to practice after six weeks, and be added to their roster after eight.  With the value of a single roster spot never higher and the continued effort to monitor player safety, this allows teams to balance substantial injuries with the weight of pricey contracts and the needs of the depth chart.

For the Denver Broncos, this rule certainly would have been a welcomed amendment for the past two seasons.  In 2010, Elvis Dumervil tore a pectoral muscle in training camp and in 2011, freshly inked veteran Ty Warren suffered torn triceps also in training camp.  Both injuries needed months to heal, but Dumervil and Warren would have likely been available for December games.

The new rule will allow teams the flexibility to make tough injured reserve calls knowing that a player might still contribute in the case of training camp injuries or if the prognosis is better than expected.

Trade deadline: If you’re a baseball fan, you already know that July 31 is one of the most exciting days of the summer.  Teams will be involved in transactions ranging from picking up a front of the rotation starter to conducting an all-out firesale.  For football fans, there is a lot to cheer about.  Typically the trade deadline hasn’t been one of those things.

Previously the deadline was at Week 6, or the baseball equivalent to June 8, which is way too early to know about playoff run needs.  The move to mid-season to allow for player trades will motivate buyers to buy and sellers to sell, which will only increase excitement for the fanbase of those teams.  Imagine for a moment the football equivalent of the deadline deals for CC Sabathia, Manny Ramirez, Mark Teixiera, and Cliff Lee.  Yep.  This is a great move on the part of the NFL.

One rule ratified won’t take effect until 2013, but should have an interesting effect on the speed of the game. The committee voted to make the unpopular knee and thigh pads mandatory for all players.  Pads, especially for “performance players” have gotten smaller and smaller, and in the case of knee and thigh pads largely non-existent.  A look back to just 25 years ago shows wide receivers in monstrous shoulder pads looking like they’re moving in slow motion in comparison to today’s game.  It makes sense: minimize the shoulder pads, ditch anything foamy from the waist down, and it’s no wonder that the game has sped up to the level it has.

Other rule changes for 2012 include:

Overtime: The playoff format becomes the standard with each team getting a possession barring a touchdown on the first drive.  Tim Tebow and Demaryius Thomas say, “you’re welcome,” whilst Donovan McNabb rejoices.

Instant replay: The booth can now initiate a review on plays involving a turnover in the same way it can on scoring plays.

Illegal kicking: Teams will now lose a down for illegally kicking a ball in play in addition to the 10-yard penalty.  We see you, Mat McBriar.

12-men-on-the-field: Changes from a live-ball foul to a dead-ball foul.  This is a reaction to Super Bowl XLVI when the Giants had an extra defender on the field while the Patriots were driving late in the fourth quarter.

Crack-back block: Anyone subject to a crack-back block is now added to the list of “defenseless players.”

Uniforms: Nameplates can now include generational suffixes such as “Jr.” and “III.”  Robert Griffin III rejoices.

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Tags: 2012 Season Demaryius Thomas Elvis Dumervil NFL Overtime

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