League mulls over two-hand touch rule

March, 24, 2009
3/24/09
2:12
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Every now and then, a man dressed in a dark suit and pink tie will duck into the media tent on the South Lawn of the St. Regis Resort and hand out some press releases. This makes it possible for reporters to never leave their seats, which is something we've perfected over the years -- unless there's free food within a mile radius.

Anyway, I'm now staring at a list of rule proposals that were adopted by the owners Tuesday. On an onside kick, at least three players must be lined up outside each inbounds line, one of whom must be outside the yard-line number. Folks, this is the type of change we can believe in. This basically eliminates the "bunch" onside kick formation, which the competition committee felt was causing too many injuries.

And in another shocking twist, the league has done away with the three-man wedge that once allowed three grown men to hold hands and race up the field together on kick returns. Here's how Rule 6, Section 1, Article 3(d) now reads:

"After the ball is kicked, no more than two receiving team players may intentionally form a wedge in an attempt to block for the runner. An illegal wedge is defined as three or more players lined up shoulder-to-shoulder within two yards of each other."

Reached for a response soon after the rule change, an NFC special teams coach said, "Whew! It's about time."

The league also adopted an amended rule that prohibits a blindside block "if the initial force of the contact by a blocker's helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of an opponent when: a. the blocker is moving toward his own endline and b. he approaches the opponent from behind or from the side."

The fourth rule change is another player safety issue. Rule 12, Section 2, Article 8(k) now says that it's a penalty "if the initial force of the contact by a defender's helmet, forearm or shoulder is to the head or neck area of a defenseless receiver who is catching or attempting to catch a pass."

This eliminates initial contact to the head of a defenseless receiver. When in doubt, the league would like to encourage defensive backs to make a high-pitched whistling sound in order to prepare receivers for their arrival. The league is hoping to increase both player safety and yards after catch.

I'll be back with some Dick Jauron nuggets once I take a walk around the resort. Quick question: Do we receive St. Regis points for spending several hours hanging out in the lobby?

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