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Five NFL Rule Changes and How They Affect 49ers

Rules may meant to be broken, but they seem to have been improved, at least in the NFL.

After a vote at the owners' meetings in Orlando on Wednesday, the league's competition committee has reportedly approved five rule changes.

Here is how each will or already has affected your San Francisco 49ers.

1. A rule that says a player can't block an opponent by striking him in the back of their legs will be expanded to include the opponent's "side."

While this alteration wasn't directly inspired by the hit that ended Ian Williams' year in Week 2 last season, it's closely related. Had it already been in place, the Seattle Seahawks would have been penalized when right guard J.R. Sweezy "rolled up" into Williams, who broke his ankle early on in the game, his first career NFL start.

Going forward, this rule will help to protect defensive linemen like Williams when they're at their most vulnerable. Some in the game are concerned this could significantly impact the run game, where offensive linemen are accustomed to using the so-called low block to their advantage.

2. The rules of replay will expand the referee's ability to review the recovery of a loose ball.

While Williams won't have his name attached to the previous amendement, linebacker NaVorro Bowman directly inspired the addendum to this new rule. 

In the Jan. 19 NFC Championship game in Seattle, Bowman forced Seahawks wideout Jermaine Kearse's fumble near the goal line and appeared to recover it before severely injuring his knee. TV highlights showed the All-Pro 'backer down by contact with the ball in hand, but officials on the field ruled that running back Marshawn Lynch swiped the ball from him before the play concluded.

In the future, members of the 49ers defense will be happy to know that the referee has more leeway to make sure the call on the field is correct.

3. The game clock will not be stopped on a sack outside of two minutes.

Now a defense will not be penalized for bringing down a quarterback in the backfield when it's trying to protect a lead.

4. Referees will be allowed to consult New York-based NFL officiating department members during replay reviews.

As a result, the review process is expected to be faster.

How will it work? This from NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino:

Yes, we expect it to speed up the process and be more efficient for us. We can communicate with the referee immediately as soon as he's done making his announcement, we can start that conversation as to what we're going to look at and what he is going to see. There isn't that delay of getting over to the monitor, putting the headset on and having a 45 second discussion. We think it will be more efficient, accurate and consistent.

This is strictly tied to replay reviews. The referee is the only official that we can communicate with. We can't communicate with the other six officials.

*There will be a small group; myself, Al Riveron, the senior director of officiating, will have monitors, but there will be a small group of people that will actually be speaking to referees so we can adjudicate multiple reviews that happen at the same time. *

5. The field goal uprights will be five feet taller.

Many around the league considered this change "a no-brainer," but we wonder how it will affect the 49ers handy new collapsible posts system to be unveiled at Levi's® Stadium.


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