The New NFL Rules: How Will They Affect the Chicago Bears?

Mar 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; commissioner Roger Goodell during a press conference at the NFL Annual Meetings at the Biltmore Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 28, 2017; Phoenix, AZ, USA; commissioner Roger Goodell during a press conference at the NFL Annual Meetings at the Biltmore Resort. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports /

The NFL recently approved eight rules that could affect the Chicago Bears in varying ways during the upcoming season.

At the NFL’s Owners Meetings, the league approved some new rules that will impact the game on the field. The rules are primarily related to fouls, and affect the Chicago Bears the same as most teams.

No leap frog to block a kick

Only one rule was proposed by a team (Philadelphia), and it pertains to a player leaping over the offensive line in order to block a scoring kick.  There isn’t a huge impact for the Bears.  The positive, however, is that Bears’ fans won’t have to be sickened by watching Shea McClellin display the type of athleticism for which he was drafted, yet never really displayed in the Windy City.

Don’t foul twice

Two different rules were passed that relate to the number of fouls committed.  The NFL adopted the same type of philosophy regarding unsportsmanlike conduct fouls as the NCAA has.  A player who commits more than one unsportsmanlike foul in one game will be ejected.  Since the days of Cedric Benson, the Bears have been a tightly run ship (ba-dum-cha!).  There aren’t any real trouble makers on the team.  If, however, a player were to say, ignore officials, then flail his arms and yell profanity at them, then spit in their faces, that’s probably an ejection.

The second rule change with a multiple iteration clause relates to clock manipulation.  If a team commits multiple fouls just to alter the clock status, an unsportsmanlike penalty will be assessed.  The Bears will have to be in more competitive games before this situation becomes a reality.

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Don’t sub to save time

Along the same lines as the previous rule, the NFL has also expanded upon the illegal conservation of time.  After the two-minute warning in either half, a substitution violation intended to conserve time is now illegal.  Again, the Bears need to keep the score closer a little more often for this to be something consequential.

Player safety

Two new safety rules could impact the Bears significantly this season.

Regardless of player position at the snap, motion players may not make crackback blocks.  This rule was originally instituted in 1974, and has been modified twice since then to alter the distance away from a specific player (e.g. tackle or tight end).

Additionally, a receiver running a pass route is now considered defenseless.  That means a defender can’t make head or neck contact with a receiver without the risk of ejection.

Both of these safety changes could affect the Bears in 2017, because Kevin White is essentially a rookie for the third season in a row, and many think the Bears will draft a rookie WR.

For the crackback block, a rookie may have less knowledge or control and is more likely to commit the foul.  On the other hand, a receiver with limited experience, or one who is fragile, will probably benefit from the added protection defenseless status provides.

Kickoffs are still frowned upon by the NFL

In 2016 the NFL approved a one-year rule that put the ball at the 25 whenever there was a touchback on a free kick (i.e. kick off).   That rule is being extended for one more year in 2017.  Since the Bears were near the bottom of the league in kickoff touchbacks, there is minimal impact.  In some ways, this could be construed as a positive since the Bears are not automatically giving the other team the ball with a quarter of the field as a gift.

Replay is going handheld

No longer will officials go “under the hood” or to a monitor.  Now everything is handheld, and will likely be linked to high levels of the NFL’s officiating department headed by Dean Blandino.

Overall these new rule changes don’t mean much to the Chicago Bears.  The changes most likely to affect the team pertain to the receivers, but don’t be surprised if the team starts losing and a player gets two unsportsmanlike fouls.  Losing teams tend to act up, and frustrated players don’t think clearly.  Here’s to hoping that prediction rings false, and the Bears only have to worry about opponents trying to illegally conserve time because they’re getting trounced.