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NFL adopts rule changes for 2018 season

ORLANDO – The NFL's annual meetings have come to a close, and a number of rule, bylaw and resolution proposals have been adopted.

The two rule changes that will get most of the headlines pertain to the new language around the catch rule and the broadening of the helmet-hit rule.

The catch rule was essentially simplified to three simple steps. It will eliminate the requirement to maintain control of the ball throughout the process of going to the ground. Instead, a catch is now defined with a much simpler three-step process: A receiver must control the ball, have two feet or body parts down in the field of play and perform a football move such as taking a third step or reaching out with the ball in hand.

The change to the rule means the Calvin Johnson play in 2010, the Dez Bryant play in 2014 and the Jesse James play in last year's playoffs – all overturned via replay as not being receptions – will be catches in the future.

The other big rule change is the broadening of the helmet-hit rule that will now penalize players who lead with the crown of their helmets to initiate contact against an opponent on any play.

Offenders would be penalized 15 yards and may be disqualified depending on the severity of the hit. The rule is designed to continue to improve player safety.

"For us this is a pretty significant change," Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay said Tuesday. "There were so many hits we saw when a player lowered his head and delivered a hit and either hurt himself or the person he was contacting with, so we felt it was time for a change of this magnitude."

The Lions were in favor of a resolution proposal that would have permitted a club to negotiate and sign a head coach candidate during the postseason prior to the conclusion of the current club's season.

Candidates would still work with their current teams until their season concludes, but a contract could be signed by both parties so at least the new club could move forward with the hiring of assistants and other important post-hire duties.

The proposal was shelved and not put to a vote at these meetings, and isn't expected to be reevaluated at the meetings in May, according to McKay.  

Here's a full list of the rule, bylaw and resolution changes:

Approved 2018 playing rules 

By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the playing rule that changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line.

By Competition Committee: Changes standard for a catch.

By Competition Committee: Makes the penalties for Illegal Batting & Kicking the same.

By Competition Committee: Authorizes the designated member of the officiating department to instruct on-field game officials to disqualify a player for a flagrant non-football act when a foul for that act is called on the field.

By Competition Committee: Eliminates the requirement that a team who scores a winning touchdown at the end of regulation of a game to kick the extra point or go for two-point conversion.

By Competition Committee: In overtime, if the team that possess the ball first scores a field goal on its initial possession and the second team loses possession by an interception or fumble, the down will be permitted to run to its conclusion, including awarding points scored by either team during the down.

By Competition Committee: Lowering the head to initiate contact with the helmet is a foul.

Approved 2018 bylaws 

By Competition Committee: Makes permanent the liberalization of rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club's facility.

By Buffalo: For one year only, amends Article XVII, Section 17.4 to liberalize the rule for reacquisition of a player assigned via waivers.

By Competition Committee: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.16 to permit clubs to trade players from Reserve/Injured.

By Miami: Amends Article XVII, Section 17.1 to remove the requirement that a non-vested player be placed on waivers to be removed from the 90-player roster prior to the roster reduction to 53 players.

By Minnesota: Amends Article XVIII, Section 18.1 to replace the 10-day postseason claiming period with a 24-hour period.

By Competition Committee: A player who is designated for return is eligible to be activated after eight games, not eight weeks.

By Competition Committee: Lengthens the period to execute an Injury Settlement from five business days to seven business days.

By Competition Committee: Changes the deadline to reinstate players from certain Reserve List categories.

By Competition Committee: Updates Reserve/Military List procedures to reflect the current League calendar.

Approved 2018 resolutions 

By Competition Committee: For one year only, permits an interested club to contact a Vested Veteran before clubs have been notified of the player's termination via the Player Personnel Notice if (i) the players are not subject to the Waivers System and, (ii) the employer club has publicly announced the player's release.

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