PHOENIX - After the Patriots beat the Ravens in the playoffs last season thanks to some confusing alignments that had the Baltimore defense baffled, Tom Brady smiled and told reporters: "Those guys gotta study the rule book and figure it out."
Well, rather than study it, they just changed it.
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A proposal submitted by the Ravens that would stop allowing a player with an eligible receiver number to be declared ineligible and then line up outside the tackle box was approved at the NFL's annual meetings on Wednesday. It essentially outlaws what the Patriots did in that game when they had Shane Vereen technically as the tackle on the line of scrimmage but lined up in the slot position.
The rule also redefines the tackle box as "an area between the outside edges of the normal tackle positions."
The penalty for violating the new rule is a loss of five yards for illegal substitution.
Several other new rules and bylaws were adopted, most of them minor.
Unsportsmanlike penalties at the end of a half now will be enforced on the kickoff following the break. Linebackers can now wear numbers in the 40s (a generation too late for Brian Bosworth). Players can be placed on injured reserve with a designation to return the day after the rosters are trimmed to 53 players and not later in that week. And teams with retractable roofs can open it at halftime if there is a change in the weather.
The competition committee is expected to have a proposal on changing the extra point ready for a vote by the owners at their May meeting, and it seems that it will change in some fashion. But it hasn't yet.
Study up, fellas.