Roger Goodell and the NFL are making changes. Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
The NFL’s Competition Committee is made up of a mix of personnel. The current members of the committee are as follows: Rich McKay (chairman) – president, Atlanta Falcons, John Mara – owner, New York Giants, Stephen Jones – owner, Dallas Cowboys, Mark Murphy – president, Green Bay Packers, Ozzie Newsome – general manager, Baltimore Ravens, Mike Tomlin – head coach, Pittsburgh Steelers, John Elway – general manager, Denver Broncos, and Sean Payton – head coach, New Orleans Saints. Two each of team owners, presidents, general managers, and head coaches make up the committee which is appointed by the commissioner.
Every year, they review different rules and make changes to them, or add new rules. Some rules are reviewed, but not changed, and highlighted as a point of emphasis. Here are the rules changes for this year: use of helmet, kickoff rules, the infamous catch rule, illegal batting or kicking of the ball, and a couple of other minor tweaks. The points of emphasis are as follows: sportsmanship, illegal contact or other acts downfield, protection of runners who give themselves up, protection of quarterbacks as usual, protection of snapper on PAT’s and field goals, gunners going out of bounds, and use of officials’ whistle. If you want to read in further detail, here’s a link to the NFL’s Operations page listing them and their explanations.
So far in preseason, the ones that have been complained about or scrutinized the most are the helmet rule, protection of the quarterback, and protection of the runner. There have been a ton of clips on Twitter of different calls that have been called into question. The helmet rule is so ambiguous, it will have a life of its own much like the catch rule (which still hasn’t been totally settled). Defenders have been called for penalties when the offensive player has initiated the lowering of the head contact! Protection of the quarterback has taken on a whole new level of pussification of football. Defenders are now asked to not land their full body weight on the quarterback when they take him to the ground. So you must perform a sound tackle, not use your helmet as a spear, and make sure the physics are appropriate. If that isn’t stupid enough, the fact that a quarterback can dive head first, not be hit in the head, and gain yards by diving calls the rule into question when a quarterback dives at the goal line. If he scrambles, dives head first at the goal line, and a defender hits him in the shoulder/neck area to prevent a score, will a flag be thrown?
I understand keeping the game safe. I’m all for it. I have relatives who make a living off this game and want to see them succeed for years to come. I have the privilege of writing about the game I love, so of course I want to see it succeed. But, there are some things I can’t get with. One of them is stripping some of the natural tendencies of defenders, ball carriers, and pass rushers. If we take away from natural instincts, are we truly seeing the product so many of us want to see? Or are we bowing to pressure and giving into outside influences? There are more important issues the league should be focusing in on (like the actual source of anthem protests and dealing with player behavior off the field), instead of minute tweaks and changes of rules to appease potential lawsuits. The NFL has a work to do on and off the field. They won’t please everybody, but they sure as hell don’t want to lose too many supporters while attempting to skirt hot button issues.
The biggest news from Astros spring training in West Palm Beach has been the arrival of muscle-packed third baseman Alex Bregman, who’s in the final year of his contract with free agency looming.
Facing a battalion of microphones, Bregman has been saying all the right things – all the right things that Astros fans are happy to hear.
“I feel like I’ve never been in better shape in my life.”
“I expect to have the best season I’ve ever had.”
“I absolutely love every single second here. Being able to put on this jersey is an absolute honor and a dream come true for me as a kid. When it comes to the contract, I just let Scott do that.”
"Scott" is Bregman’s cold-blooded agent Scott Boras who is known for taking his clients to free agency and playing hardball with owners. Bregman, who will be 30 at the end of the season, is expected to draw offers perhaps as rich as $250 million over seven or eight years.
When I watched Bregman talk about his love for Houston and how he’d love to stay an Astro, I was half looking for an earpiece like the Impractical Jokers wear, with Boras whispering to Bregman what to say.
At the same time, but not the same place, Astros general manager Dana Brown was gushing over the Astros third sacker.
“He’s locked in. He is a special talent.”
“I’m expecting he’s going to have a really good season. I’m excited.”
“He has the heartbeat of a champion.”
The way Bregman and Brown are talking … I’ve heard less flirty prom invitations.
Now cue the scary music from horror movies. When Bregman was asked, have the Astros approached you with any offer of an extension, he answered a simple “no.”
When pressed for a timetable on a Bregman extension, Brown admitted, “at some point we’ll put together an offer. But right now we’re not engaged in an offer.”
In other words, both sides are talking. But not to each other.
Spring training is in full swing. Often players say if they don’t have an extension by the start of the season, they’ll shut down contract talks. They don’t want to think about a contract when they’re in the batter’s box and the games count. We don’t know if that is Bregman’s position, but it’s Boras’ modus operandi. It’s looking more and more like hello free agent Alex Bregman.
If Bregman is looking for a long-term deal at $200 million-plus, that’s more than Astros have ever offered a player. It could be too costly for owner Jim Crane’s blood.
Where do you stand on the Astros-Bregman dilemma? If you were Jim Crane, what would you do?
Break the bank and pay the man? After all, Bregman is a key piece of the Astros lineup. He’s been a dependable, hard-nosed player, a bit of a lovable wise ass and a huge part of the Astros’ dynastic run since 2017. Last year Bregman played 161 games, batted .262 with 25 homers, 98 RBI and 103 runs scored. He was a Gold Glove finalist at third base. He’s well liked in the clubhouse and adored by Astros fans. He has his own line of condiments.
Or let Bregman walk and save the money to make a run at keeping Kyle Tucker? As old school sports writers would say, you can look it up. In 2019, his career year so far, he batted .296, belted 41 homers, drove in 112 runs and led the league with 119 walks. He finished second in MVP voting behind Mike Trout. He hasn’t made an All-Star Game since then. His numbers, while not in free fall, have dwindled the past four years. He still is an above average player, though. Some team looking to go deep in the postseason will offer him big bucks at season’s end.
If it were up to you, would that team be the Astros?