Drenched in Florida sunshine, 5-star culinary cuisine and ice-cold adult beverages NFL owners wrapped up the annual league meetings Wednesday. But not before they added a page to the rule book with a couple of changes that weren’t popular with many of the league coaches.

Both rule changes were added as one-year experiments. Last year moving the extra point snap back to the 15- yard line was a 1-year trial that has now been made permanent. Here’s what’s new for 2016.

  • Players will be subject to automatic ejection if they commit two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in the same game.
  • Touchbacks after kickoffs will be moved to the 25-yard line (previously the 20).
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The touchback rule is designed to reduce kickoff returns and improve safety. Violent collisions make kickoff returns the most dangerous play in the game and injuries were up on the play in the 2015 season. There is an argument that this rule might actually lead to more returns with kickers dropping the ball short of the goal line in an attempt to stop returns short of the 25-yard line.

Opponents of the automatic ejection rule wonder if it’ll lead to cheap shots as players attempt to get an opponent to retaliate after getting an earlier misconduct penalty. Rams head coach Jeff Fisher is for the rule saying we need to get players attention.

Often with change comes resistance but change is necessary to make the game better and safer. Despite Jerry Jones denial the NFL’s biggest challenge is head injuries and the impact those injuries will have on the quality of life of those we cheer for on Sundays (and Thursdays and Mondays).

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Football people like Ozzie Newsome and Jeff Fisher serve on the Competition Committee; they make recommendations to improve NFL football then the owners vote for or against. Remember the NFL hasn’t always had replay review it wasn’t that long ago that calls good or bad stood with no second look. In 1932 a quarterback would get penalized if he wasn’t 5-yards behind the line of scrimmage when he threw a pass.

Legendary plays like Franco’s Harris’s Immaculate Reception and Ken Stabler’s Holly Roller resulted in rule changes. It wasn’t until 1978 that offensive linemen could extend their arms and open their hands while pass protecting and there was a time you could head-slap, clothes-line, face-mask and horse-collar your opponent without penalty.

Like goal posts on the goal line chop blocks are now a thing of the past and that’s a rare win for the defense. More times than not, defense comes out on the wrong end of these rule changes that are often passed to juice up the offense and the scoreboards.

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