As has been the case in recent months, safety was a big topic of discussion at the annual owners meetings.
Adding to the changes covered in my article a few months ago "NFL rule changes", The NFL has voted to approve several new rules.
The trade deadline has been moved back from week 6 during the season to week 8, and many insiders believe that the trade deadline may be moved as far back as week 10 at next year's meetings.
Teams are now allowed to take one player from the injured reserve list and place them on the active roster after week eight. The player must be a part of the 53 man roster after the final pre-season cuts. This rule could make an immediate impact if Baltimore Ravens linebacker Terrell Suggs can make a late season recovery from a torn achilles tendon. Under the old rules, any player placed on injured reserve was automatically out for the season.
The league approved the Buffalo Bills playing one home game each season in Toronto from 2013-17. There is also an expansion of the London series still on the table.
The one rule change that has inexplicably caused the most uproar however, is a new mandate that all players must wear knee and thigh pads. Something many casual fans never realized was an issue.
Thigh and Knee pads were mandatory equipment at every level except the NFL for years. The NFLPA started complaining that "Any change in working conditions is a collectively bargained issue, while the NFL is focused on one element of health and safety today, the NFLPA believes that health and safety requires a comprehensive approach and commitment."
The NFLPA is hiding behind making safety a "comprehensive issue", which basically means they don't want the NFL making changes for player safety unless they can take advantage of the bargaining process to get something they want out of the NFL in regards to player health off the football field. Their heart is in the right place, but complaining about a small safety rule makes the NFLPA come off as petty.
Asked about the new pad rule, Commissioner Roger Goodell said "We have raised the issue of mandatory pads for at least three years now, I believe the technology has improved, the pads are far better than a decade ago, they allow better performance and are more protective. Every other level of football uses the pads." He also stated that a Nike executive told him that NBA players wear more padding from the waist down than NFL players do.
The most ridiculous reaction though has come from the players themselves. For most players, the backlash is purely on a cosmetic level. Former all-pro safety Troy Vincent, now an NFL vice president, echoed that sentiment: "It's psychological. Less pads you are faster, skinnier, that's just the way I was introduced to the (pro) game," he said. "It's a culture shift. They will adjust."
Chargers cornerback Quentin Jammer didn't agree with Vincent's assessment. "It's dumb," Jammer, an 11-year veteran, said. "Ridiculous to me. I don't think anybody should be required to wear (them). I don't get hit, so I don't need to worry about pads. Offensive players should wear them because we hit them, but I don't think it should be mandatory." Jammer went on to say "There'll probably be a lot of fines in 2013, a lot of guys won't wear them."
The new padding rules won't go into effect until 2013 so that Nike can put in the research to make the padding as streamlined and unnoticeable as possible.