Shorter overtimes are among the changes that will be coming to NFL games in 2017.
NFL team owners approved shortening overtime in the preseason and regular season from 15 to 10 minutes at the Spring League Meeting in Chicago on Tuesday. The approval comes after the proposal was initially presented to owners during the Annual League Meeting in March.
As NFL Network's Judy Battista pointed out, the rule change is aimed at improving player safety. There have been concerns about the number of additional plays teams undergo while playing a full 15-minute overtime period, especially when one of the teams is subject to playing its next game on a short week.
Some teams were initially concerned the condensed time period would limit their ability to control the ball during the extra frame, but it appears those worries have eased, at least for now.
"We think this is an important change, particularly for teams that may be into an overtime situation and a lengthy overtime situation that may have to come back and play on a Thursday night, so this is another positive change," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.
Although the idea of a 10-minute overtime has been a polarizing issue, the change shouldn't lead to a significant increase in tie scores. According to NFL Research, there have been 83 overtime games over the last five seasons, 22 of them lasting at least 10 minutes into overtime (the average time elapsed in overtime in the last five years is 7 minutes, 43 seconds). There have been five games that ended in a tie in those five seasons, an average of one per year. If overtime had ended after 10 minutes, there would have been 16 total ties, for an average of 3.2 times over a 512-game season.
The move to shorter overtimes is just one of the changes that have been approved for the 2017 season. At the Annual League Meeting, team owners banned leaping over the line to block kicks and approved automatic ejections for egregious hits to the head. In addition, team owners approved a centralized replay to give the NFL's New York officiating command center the final say on reviewed calls.
Other changes for 2017 approved by team owners at the Spring League Meeting:
1. The NFL will no longer penalize or fine most player celebrations. In a letter to fans, Goodell wrote the league is "relaxing rules on celebrations to allow players more room to have a fun after they make big plays."
2. The first roster cut-down deadline has been eliminated. Instead of teams cutting from 90 to 75 players, there only will be one deadline to cut to 53-man rosters.
3. Two players are now allowed to return off injured reserve instead of one. Under the new rule, two players per season are eligible to return to practice if they had been on IR for at least six weeks. They can return to games eight weeks after being put on injured reserve. The move gives teams greater roster flexibility and a chance to have their best players on the field for important late-season games.
However, there is one proposal that will undergo further discussion from owners before a potential decision is made: