A crew of NFL officials, including referee Wayne Mackie and the legendary Red Cashen, was in Cincinnati Wednesday and Thursday to oversee live action drills during practice and to make a presentation on new rules and points of emphasis this season.
The presentation, which was shown to media members in the morning and Bengals players in the afternoon, included a 14-minute video that went into detail about the rules changes.
The two most notable are the elimination of the infamous tuck rule, and prohibiting offensive players from initiating forcible contact with the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box.
The tackle box is defined as the area from tackle to tackle 3 yards in front of the line of scrimmage and the length of the field behind it.
There are three criteria that determine whether a ball carrier will be in violation of the helmet-crown rule: 1.) The offensive player must line up his opponent; 2.) He must lower his head; 3.) He must deliver a forcible blow with the crown of his helmet – not the hairline or facemask – to any part of his opponent’s body.
The other changes include:
* On all kicking plays, the defense can no longer block below the waist may no longer push players into the line or stack one side of the line of scrimmage with more than six players.
* Also on kicking plays, the long snapper is classified as a defenseless player and may not be forcibly struck until he becomes an active blocker
* Peel-back blocks, where an offensive player blocks a defender who has gotten past him from either in front or from the side, will now draw a 15-yard flag unless the lead shoulder is fully in front of the opponent’s body.
* Thigh pads and knee pads are mandatory for all players other than kickers and punters.
* Erroneous challenges will no longer prohibit the play from being challenged by the booth (inspired by the Thanksgiving Day game between the Lions and Texans).
* Spinning the ball at another player is now included as a taunting infraction.
“It was probably the best meeting I ever remember with players and officials,” said Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, who as a member of the competition committee helped shaped the new rules.
“It’s a great group of that we’re working with, the four guys who came in here,” Lewis added. “They’re good guys and the players were having fun with them, asking questions and they brought the players up to demonstrate what they were concerned about.”
Wide receiver Andrew Hawkins is the latest Bengals wide receiver to be felled by injury after hurting what appeared to be his left ankle while making a diving catch during Thursday night’s practice.
After being tended to by medical personnel, Hawkins stood up and tried to put weight on his left leg but couldn’t. He was helped off the field to a waiting cart and was expected to undergo an MRI later.
Hawkins’ older brother, broadcaster and former Bengals cornerback Artrell Hawkins, Tweeted this message a short time after the injury: “Spoke w Andrew he believes it’s only a high-ankle sprain. MRI will determine if it’s more severe.”
After practice Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis said it was too early to tell, but he seemed a bit miffed about how the injury happened.
“I don’t know what happened,” he said. “I know he shouldn’t dive for the ball. I keep harping on the same thing.”
Hawkins ranked third on the team last year in catches (51), receiving yards (533) and receiving touchdowns (four).
“Andrew is such a role model of hard work and energy and quickness,” Lewis said. “He understands football, he understands working away from leverage. He’s a big plus that way.”
The Bengals added a pair of players to the roster Thursday when they rookie free agent wide receiver Jheranie Boyd and claimed rookie offensive tackle Jason Weaver off waivers from Tampa Bay.
Boyd (6-foot-2, 190 pounds) was limited to three games by a leg injury his senior year at North Carolina. He finished his Tar Heels career with 44 catches for 860 yards with 13 touchdowns. He was waived by Tampa Bay on June 13.
Boyd will give the Bengals some needed depth at receiver when they travel to Atlanta next week in wake of injuries to A.J. Green (knee), Andrew Hawkins (ankle) and Tyrone Goard (concussion). The status of Marvin Jones also remains up in the air after he was shaken up on a pass play Monday and has yet to return to full action.
Weaver (6-4, 313, Southern Mississippi) signed a free-agent deal with the Buccaneers on May 3 and was waived Wednesday. He also provides depth as Andrew Whitworth continues to recover from offseason knee surgery.