Despite the labor issues, the NFL continues to frame the game and consider rules changes. On Tuesday, the league's competition committee said it wouldn't consider what has been dubbed the Calvin Johnson Rule – which requires receivers not only to get both feet down on receptions, but to also come up from the ground with possession of the ball.
But there were some changes the committee suggested. On Wednesday, Ray Anderson, the NFL's vice president of football operations, announced that the league will increase its enforcement of "big hit" sanctions to players, especially those deemed as repeat offenders.
Anderson said "everyone will be clearly on notice" that suspensions will be handed out for the type of hits that were glorified in ESPN's weekly "Jacked Up" segment. In the world of basketball, they call it "Posterizing" – humbling an opponent with a photo of player dunking while the opponent bails out. In the world of the NFL, "sending a message" has been the part of every defense. The big hit that gives wide receivers "alligator arms" is what puts NFL defenders on the map. The NFL has taken great pains to make the league "more offensive" – creating rules that not only protect quarterbacks, but hinder what defenders can do to receivers beyond a 5-yard buffer zone. The helmet-to-helmet hit has been a part of football from they day they started wearing helmets (presumably they were "forehead to forehead" hits prior to that). The edict that stiffer penalties are forthcoming is ironic given the current industry impasse. With the lack of free-agent news – which typically dominates March in the NFL fans' calendar year – this has become headline news.
As part of the NFL police ruling, the definition of "defenseless player" will increase to eight – a QB in the act of throwing, a receiver trying to make a catch, a runner in the grasp of tacklers with forward progress officially stopped, a player fielding a punt or kickoff, a kicker or punter during the act of kicking, a QB at any time after a change of possession, a receiver who gets a blind-side block and a player already on the ground. The last three are fresh and, while legitimate, are being added to the list of things forbidden against defensive players.
As if the unnecessary shot across the bow by the NFL to further restrict what defensive players have been taught since their Pop Warner days, the league is looking into taking dominant kickers out of the equation.
When the owners meet next week in New Orleans, one of the topics of discussion will be to move the kickoff point once again. Except, they're looking at the wrong direction. For those fans of Fred Cox as the Vikings kicker, they remember kickoffs coming from the 40-yard line. With a ball on a tee, a 70-yard kickoff not only went through the goal posts if it was dead center, but landed in the back of the end zone. The straight-on kickers of the day rarely put the ball into the end zone. But, as the specialization of the NFL began, why not start with the special teams?
Soccer-style kickers changed the game like few other NFL innovations. Old-school kickers went the way of the TV repairman and the typewriter salesman. As the athleticism of kickers grew, teams invested in two kickers – one that can handle the pressure of a 45-yarder with a game on the line and another that could boom a ball eight yards deep into the end zone.
Once touchbacks became too prevalent, the league backed up the starting point of kickoffs to the 35-yard line. Then the 30-yard line. The Raiders used a first-round pick on Sebastian Janikowski and made Shane Lechler the first punter off the board in the fifth round for just that reason. Teams could win games by investing in special teams. As much as Al Davis can rightfully be criticized for other draft picks (JaMarcus Russell, Darius Heyward-Bey, etc.), he is the only decision-maker in the NFL to invest two premium picks on a kicker and punter. He did that in 2000. A decade later, both remain with the Raiders. Investment paid off in spades.
But the NFL is looking to change kickoff rules, apparently to add more firepower to the game. A rules change being proposed is to move the spot of a kickoff back to the 35-yard line, but, if a kickoff isn't returned, it comes out to the 25-yard line.
Teams have invested in kickoff specialists. It would seem that, if approved, a player like Ryan Longwell, who can consistently drop kicks to about the 5-yard line, would have more cache given his field goal prowess.
The league is also considering outlawing a wedge on kick returns and not allowing any players on the kicking team more than a 5-yard running start.
It's hard to imagine an NFL without special-teams specialists carving their "against the odds" niche in the subtext of the Book of the NFL. It would seem the league is trying to take away that little slice of lore.
There is little gray area when it pertains to Moss. Moody? Definitely. Abrasive? Too often for his own good. Despite this writer getting a one-on-one interview with him during his first go-round with the team, when he came back, despite the glint of recognition, when asked if he had a couple of minutes, he consistently said "no." He was much more terse with members of my media brethren, but the chip on his shoulder he came into the league with remains in the twilight of his career.
He is a polarizing individual. Either you love him or you hate him. The interesting part is that there are few fans that hate him and few media types that love him.
He was doing a favor for a young athlete looking to build his broadcasting resume. The biggest media names in the Twin Cities couldn't get Moss to come on air and talk from the heart. Erin Henderson did. Henderson got his first scoop – and there aren't many scoops that are bigger.
Prediction Two: If the Minnesota Legislature approves a fixed roof stadium for the Vikings, a future Wrestlemania will come to the Twin Cities. Laugh if you must, but the annual economic impact of Wrestlemania on a host community is in the neighborhood of $40-50 million – for a short week of events. Add the Final Fours that would use the stadium and the likely promise of a future Super Bowl and the cost a new stadium can be defrayed by marquee sports (or sports-entertainment) events. The state's contribution to a new stadium (keep in mind it needs to be a fixed roof) would almost surely be made up simply in big-ticket revenue alone, much less the events great and small that would be conducted there.
In the filing documents, Sterger claims that Reese plans to use the materials alleged to have been sent from Favre to Sterger as part of a tell-all book. Considering that Reese almost surely didn't receive either photos or suggestive texts from Favre, it seems Sterger could have the upper hand in the court system. Sterger, who got her first taste of fame after becoming an Internet sensation in 2005 for making a Florida State tank top look good, moved into the realm of D-List celebrity when she and Favre became linked in the much-discussed "sexting" scandal. In a "you can't make this up" brainstorming session, the corporation formed for writing the book is called "A Game of Inches."
John Holler has been writing about the Vikings for more than a decade for Viking Update. Follow Viking Update on Twitter and discuss this topic on our message boards. To become a subscriber to the Viking Update web site or magazine, click here.