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Rules of engagement

Posted by Christopher L. Gasper, Globe Staff  March 22, 2010 06:57 PM

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ORLANDO, Fla. -- One of the more interesting aspects of the NFL's Annual Meeting is the review of new rules proposals.

While the hot rules change being considered this year is a modified overtime format for the postseason, something that sounds conspicuously familiar to what the Globe proposed back in September, there are a few other rules recommendations being made by the NFL's competition committee.

The co-chairman of the competition committee, Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher and Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, presented the proposed rules today.

We're going to go with some illegal contact (excuse the penalty pun) and give you five of the new or modified rules (outside of OT, which is the healthcare debate of this meeting).

Each of the rules needs a three-quarters majority of the NFL's 32 teams to gain passage into the NFL rule book.

1. Defenseless player protection -- The league plans to expand upon the rule enacted last year to protect defenseless receivers from helmet-to-helmet, shoulder or forearm shots to the head and neck area. Now, the rule would also cover runners in the grasp, quarterbacks outside the pocket and punters and kickers. The rule also already applies to defenders being struck on blindside (think Hines Ward) blocks.

2. Hats off -- If a ball carrier loses his helmet the play will now be blown dead.

3. Umpire state -- The league is considering moving the umpire, who normally is positioned behind the defense, to a position behind the offense. McKay cited a video the league showed at the meetings where the umpire was knocked down 100 times, and Fisher said there were concussions suffered by umpires in the middle of the fray. They would now be moved out of harm's way and get an easier view of offensive holding.

4. A.J. Trapasso rule -- This is named after the Tennessee punter who struck the humongous videoboard at the Cowboys new stadium during a preseason game last August. If the ball hits an object outside of the game field of play it's basically a do-over and the time goes back on the clock.

5. Flozell Adams rule -- This rules proposal would close a gap in the current rules that prevented the enforcement of a dead-ball personal foul committed by the offense after the end of a half. Adams was flagged for such a penalty last year in a game against the New York Giants. Now, such a penalty would be enforced at the start of the second half.

News, analysis and commentary from Boston.com's staff writers and contributors, including Zuri Berry and Erik Frenz.

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