With the football season upon us, we thought this might be a good opportunity to explain some of the notable rules changes fans will see this year. The National Football Foundation put out this primer earlier this month:
The 8 Major Rule Changes for the 2013 Season
1. Targeting Fouls: Automatic Ejection, Part I:
Players will automatically be disqualified from the game for targeting fouls, including (Rule 9-1-3) targeting and initiating contact with the crown of the helmet, and (Rule 9-1-4) targeting and initiating contact to the head or neck area of a defenseless opponent with the helmet, forearm, elbow or shoulder. The foul itself has not changed. These plays have been illegal for a number of years, but the penalty has been stiffened to include automatic ejection plus the 15-yard penalty.
2. Targeting Fouls: Automatic Ejection, Part II:
A player is at great risk of being ejected from the game for a launch (leaving his feet to attack an opponent by an upward and forward thrust of the body to make contact in the head or neck area); a crouch (followed by an upward and forward thrust to attack with contact at the head or neck area); leading (with helmet, forearm, fist, hand or elbow to attack with contact at the head or neck area); or lowering (the head before attacking by initiating contact with the crown of the helmet).
3. Offensive Blocking Below the Waist Rule:
The rule establishes a zone for the offense that extends seven yards from the snapper toward each sideline and goes five yards into the defensive secondary and in the other direction all the way back to the offensive team's end line. Within this zone, an offensive back who is stationary inside the tackle box and an offensive lineman inside the seven-yard zone may legally block below the waist until the ball has left the zone. Everyone else on the offensive team may legally block below the waist only if the block is clearly to the front of the opponent. This only-from-the-front rule also holds true for everyone on the offensive team once the ball has left the zone. In addition, no one on the offense is allowed to block below the waist if the block is directed toward his own end line.
4. Expansion of the 10-Second Runoff Rule:
In 2013, if a player is injured within the last minute of a half, and this is the only reason for stopping the clock, the opponent may choose to have 10 seconds subtracted from the game clock. The injured player's team can preserve the 10 seconds by using a timeout.
5. Player May Remain in the Game Via a Timeout After Helmet Comes Off:
The rule requiring a player to leave the game for one down if his helmet comes off has been modified to allow a player to remain in the game if his team is granted a charged timeout to adjust the player's helmet.
6. Minimum Time to Spike the Ball for Another Play Set at 3 Seconds:
Teams will need a minimum of three seconds from the referee's signal to "spike" the ball to allow for another play at the end of a half. Teams must still execute the spike, but they will have a reasonable opportunity for another play. If the clock shows one or two seconds, they will only have enough time to run a play without first spiking the ball.
7. Procedures for Changing Jersey Numbers During a Game:
If a team wants to use a player at two different positions during the game, and they need to change jersey numbers, the player must report to the referee who will in turn announce the change. In addition, two players who play the same position at different times in the game may not wear the same number during the game. For example, two quarterbacks may not both wear number 12.
8. Player Uniform Numerals Must Contrast With the Color of the Jersey:
The color of the jersey number itself must be clearly and obviously in contrast with the jersey, regardless of any border around the number. For example, teams will not be allowed to wear black numbers on black jerseys with a border of a bright color around the numeral; it must clearly contrast with the jersey in and of itself.