Sports Football

CFL approves new rules to speed up game, increase scoring

By Kirk Penton, Winnipeg Sun

Argonauts wide receiver KJ Stroud (left) can't catch the ball due to pass interference from Blue Bombers defensive back Michael Ray Garvin (right) during CFL action in Winnipeg on June 9, 2014. (Brian Donogh/QMI Agency/Files)

Argonauts wide receiver KJ Stroud (left) can't catch the ball due to pass interference from Blue Bombers defensive back Michael Ray Garvin (right) during CFL action in Winnipeg on June 9, 2014. (Brian Donogh/QMI Agency/Files)

The offences love it.

The defences hate it.

And the special teams are split down the middle when it comes to the CFL’s new rules for 2015 and beyond.

The league’s board of governors on Wednesday approved all but one of the proposed changes the rules committee put forth after two days of meetings in Toronto last month. Most of the alterations are designed to speed up the game and put more points on the board after a dull 2014 campaign in which scoring plummeted.

“The board endorsed the view that this is a great time for our league to innovate,” CFL president and CEO Michael Copeland said in a press release. “We’re looking forward to putting in place changes that have the potential to improve an already great game.”

The only proposed change the board of governors rejected on Wednesday was allowing offensive pass interference calls and non-calls to be challenged. That makes sense considering the mission of the new rules is to speed up the game.

A look at the major changes that will be made to this year’s rule book:

THE CONVERT

No more will the extra point be automatic, as the line of scrimmage will be moved from the five yard line to the 25 yard line. That will make it a 32-yard attempt, which is by no means a gimme. Thumbs up to this change, as the extra point had become, well, completely pointless considering how easy it was.

Meanwhile, the two point convert line of scrimmage has been moved up to the three yard line from the five. So what’s it going to be coach? A 32-yard kick for one point or an offensive play from the three for two? We like it.

ILLEGAL CONTACT

The CFL has followed its NFL brethren and implemented the rule that defensive players can’t “impede or redirect” a receiver’s progress more than five yards past the line of scrimmage.

There can be plenty of contact within those five yards, so expect everything short of decapitation within that buffer zone to be considered fair game. After that, it’s going to be a flag fest for the first few weeks, but if it will get rid of the clutching and grabbing that was happening well down field, we’re all for it.

“I know DBs are probably upset about it,” Argonauts receiver Chad Owens told QMI Agency last month. “They’re going to hate me for this, but they got away from their technique. They got away from trusting their feet and really having to cover somebody. It takes no skill to grab someone. It takes no skill to do those things.

“And yeah, we got the waggle. Whatever. That’s the Canadian game. If I get open, I deserve to catch a ball.”

PUNT RETURNS

There are several changes to the punting rules that will help the return team.

When the ball bounces on the ground and a five yard no yards penalty is called, the yardage will automatically be added to the end of the return or from the point the ball was first touched by the return team, whichever is better. The goal is to reduce the number of no yards penalties.

Also, the five interior linemen on the punt team will be prohibited from leaving the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked. The goal is to reduce the number of illegal blocking infractions, one of which helped settle last year’s Grey Cup game in Vancouver.

It will also increase the amount of room a punt returner has to move, which could result in more return touchdowns. The league doesn’t need more return touchdowns. It had 17 in 20 weeks last year, which is the perfect amount.

PACE OF PLAY

The league implemented a rule last year that prevented the defence from substituting if the offence didn’t, but it never really took off and didn’t result in many hurry-up offences. The officials were still spotting the ball and checking with both sidelines to make sure everybody was set.

No more. If the offensive team wants to run a hurry-up offence it will indicate that to the officials, who will then start the play clock as soon as the ball is spotted and the yard sticks are set.

That means everyone, including the officials, better be in good shape when the season kicks off June 25 in Montreal.

THIS AND THAT

* Coaches will no longer be allowed to request a measurement, leaving it to the referee to measure when he is unsure if a first down has been made or not.

* No longer does the receiving team have the option of demanding a team kick again after one of its kickoffs goes out of bounds. The receiving team will now either take the ball where it went out of bounds or at a point 30 yards in advance of where the ball was kicked off, whichever is better.

* A proposal to try a three-point convert from the 10-yard line in this year’s pre-season was rejected by the board of governors. Teams would have had to either pass or run the ball into the end zone to score the three points.

kirk.penton@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/PentonKirk


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