Proposed rule changes attract 49ers' attention

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Proposed rule changes attract 49ers' attention
March 3, 2014, 8:00 am
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Nose tackle Ian Williams' season ended in Week 2 when Seahawks guard J.R. Sweezy broke his ankle with a legal in-line cut block. (USATSI)

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Some of the 49ers’ management and ownership team will take part in NFL committee meetings that open Monday in Naples, Fla.

CEO Jed York traveled a few days early to spend the weekend with his family in Florida before taking his role on the two different committees devoted to stadiums and digital media.

The most noteworthy NFL group is the nine-member Competition Committee that discusses rules and presents the owners with a ballot of potential changes at the owners meeting.

Green Bay Packers president and CEO Mark Murphy, a member of the Competition Committee, revealed the potential rules changes on his team’s official website.

“Most of the potential rules changes are once again designed to make the game safer,” he wrote in his monthly column.

The Competition Committee is considering “a number” of current blocks, including chop, roll, downfield cut and peel-back. This is of particular interest to 49ers nose tackle Ian Williams, who sustained a season-ending broken ankle on a legal in-line cut block from Seattle guard J.R. Sweezy in Week 2.

Another rule of note for the 49ers is whether the quarterback should be afforded “protection” while in the pocket during read-option plays. Coach Jim Harbaugh -- obviously, with an eye on limiting hits on Colin Kaepernick -- remarked last season that the current rule “does not make sense.

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“I believe that when a quarterback is handing a ball off or faking a ball, in the read-option case, he’s reading on an option play, he’s as defenseless as a quarterback who’s in the act of throwing,” Harbaugh said. “And I’m not advocating that they don’t hit the quarterback if he has the ball, but when he’s in the pocket I believe there should be a strike zone.”

Other rules that the Competition Committee discussed in Indianapolis during the NFL Scouting Combine, according to Murphy, were:

--The proposal is to eliminate the point-after-touchdown kick. A team would automatically be awarded seven points for a touchdown. If the team wants to go for two points, the touchdown would be reduced to six points and they would attempt a two-point conversion. There were only five PAT kicks that failed throughout the entire NFL last season.

--The Competition Committee discussed adding one wild-card playoff team in each conference. That way, seven teams from the AFC and NFC would advance to the playoffs, and only the top-seed in each conference would earn a first-round bye in the playoffs.

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“One concern is that it would water down the playoffs,” Murphy wrote, “but if the expanded playoffs had been in place for the last 10 years, the No. 7 seed would have been 8-8 six times, 9-7 eight times, 10-6 five times, and 11-5 once. The expanded playoffs would also produce additional revenue that could be used to offset a loss of revenue from a potential reduction in the number of preseason games.”

--The Committee will discuss the instant replay system. “We discussed whether it would make sense to move to the college system (replay official controls) or a centralized system as is used in the NHL,” Murphy wrote.

--Also, Murphy wrote about the the "hands to the face" penalty. "The current penalty applies to both offensive and defensive players, and is called if the head is pinned back in a sustained manner," he wrote. "We watched a lot of film to determine if players are using a quick blow to the head as a tactic and if this should be a penalty."

--Taunting and fighting penalties, and the level of respect that players demonstrate for one another, will also be discussed.

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