After news of Jimmy Haslam returning to his role as CEO of Pilot Flying J broke last month, he vowed to remain heavily involved as owner of the Browns and insisted nothing would change on that front.
“You can assure everybody we’re going to be extremely involved,” Haslam said Feb. 12 during a phone interview with the Beacon Journal. “One, we have a huge investment. And two, I think more importantly, we want to win and we want to bring a winner to Northeastern Ohio and Cleveland. We believe that’s very doable.”
Haslam, whose purchase of the Browns was unanimously approved by owners Oct. 16, will get a chance to remind his NFL brethren he’s committed to being hands on when he attends the annual league meeting this week in Phoenix.
Several prominent members of the new regime will join Haslam, a member of the league’s business ventures committee. The following are among the Browns’ contingent planning to make the trip: CEO Joe Banner; coach Rob Chudzinski; General Manager Mike Lombardi; President Alec Scheiner; Sashi Brown, executive vice president of general counsel; Bryan Wiedmeier, executive VP of business operations; and David Jenkins, senior VP of finance and administration.
The league will hold a panel and reception for attendees Sunday night, but the meeting officially begins Monday morning. It’s expected to conclude Wednesday afternoon.
During the meeting, Haslam and his fellow owners will vote on six rule changes and three bylaw changes proposed by the league’s competition committee. Rules and bylaws need a vote from at least 24 owners (75 percent) to pass.
Here is a breakdown of the proposed rule changes:
• Eliminate the tuck rule, which says a passer in the act of bringing the ball down into his body rather than throwing it can lose control without a fumble being called. The tuck rule became infamous when New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady lost the ball in a 2002 playoff game against the Oakland Raiders. The original call of a fumble was reversed because of the tuck rule, and the Patriots went on to prevail in overtime.
“If the passer loses control of the ball as the arm is moving forward, it will still be an incomplete pass,” St. Louis Rams coach and competition committee member Jeff Fisher said Thursday during a conference call. “But we now say if in the passing motion he attempts to bring the ball back to his body, even if he completes the tuck and loses the ball in an attempt to bring the ball back to his body, it will be a fumble.”
• If a coach throws his challenge flag for a play that would have been automatically reviewed — such as a touchdown or a turnover — the play would still be reviewable. This past season, Detroit Lions coach Jim Schwartz threw his challenge flag when he wasn’t supposed to and, by rule, negated the use of replay on an 81-yard touchdown run that replays showed should have been nullified. Under the proposal, the punishment for making a forbidden challenge would cost the challenging team a timeout. If the team has no timeouts, it would receive a 15-yard penalty. Either way, the play would still be reviewable.
“We’re trying to deal with a result … that did not appear on its face to have the punishment meet the crime,” competition committee chairman Rich McKay said. “We’re trying to right that.”
• If a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box, the player who used the crown of his helmet would receive a 15-yard penalty. Incidental contact by the helmet of a runner or tackler would not be a penalty.
“We really think the time has come that we need to address the situation in space when a runner or a tackler has a choice as to how they are going to approach the opponent,” McKay said. “We are going to say that you can’t make that choice ducking your head and delivering a blow, a forcible blow, with the top crown of your helmet.”
• On field goals and extra points, teams wouldn’t be allowed to line up more than six players on either side of the snapper, who would be deemed as a defenseless player and receive helmet-to-helmet protection. The defenders would no longer be allowed to push their teammates through the gaps.
• Offensive players would no longer be permitted to block low when facing their own end zones inside the tackle box. If passed, the rule would prohibit peel-back blocks anywhere on the field.
• Tight ends and H-backs would be allowed to wear jersey Nos. 40-49.
Here is a breakdown of the proposed bylaw changes:
• Teams would be permitted to keep players on the physically unable to perform (PUP) list through Week 11 instead of Week 9.
• If a team claims a player off waivers, it would only be required to keep him for one day instead of two days.
• Like last year, final roster cuts would be made on a Friday night as opposed to a Saturday.
In addition to the proposals, the competition committee will review the following points of emphasis:
• Officials will begin enforcing an existing rule that requires all players to wear thigh and knee pads. Players won’t be permitted to enter the game until they comply.
• If the NFL believes a field surface is not safe or doesn’t meet its competitive standards, the league can require teams to fix the problem at their expense.
The distribution of compensatory draft picks is among the other items on the meeting’s agenda. The picks will likely be announced Monday.
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook www.facebook.com/browns.abj.