NFL Makes Rule Changes for 2016

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BOCA RATON, Fla. —The NFL owners meetings wrapped up here on Wednesday morning, but not before a pair of significant rule changes were announced.

League owners voted in favor of passing the automatic ejection rule, which was suggested by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.

In 2016, players will now be ejected for two unsportsmanlike conduct fouls in a game.

"This was a rule that brought teeth,'' Goodell said. "Sportsmanship is important to us, and it is important to our players. It is important to our teams, and it is important to our fans."

Also voted in was a proposal from the NFL Competition Committee to change the spot of the snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick from the 20-yard line to the 25-yard line.

Both rules will be treated as one-year experiments. The NFL took a similar approach a year ago by moving the line of scrimmage for extra points to the 15-yard line. On Tuesday, that became a permanent rule change.

"I would say the game got better this week,'' Goodell said. "We made significant changes to improve the safety of the game for our players."

Here at the owners meetings, several others changes in rules passed:

• All "chop blocks" are now illegal.

• A horse-collar tackle has been expanded to include the area "at the nameplate and above."

• Offensive and defensive play-callers are now able to use the headset communication system, whether they are on the field or in the booth.

• A team will be flagged for delay of game if they try to call a timeout when they are not allowed to.

A rule change also passed Wednesday in the injured reserve process.

Now, teams can designate a player on injured reserve "designated to return" retroactively.

Previously, teams were required to declare that player as it's one designated-to-return option when it placed him on injured reserve.

Teams can now put players on injured reserve and decide later who they want to designate for return. A player would have to be out at least six weeks before being eligible to practice for two before returning.

Two more topics discussed by Goodell on Wednesday:

• The Los Angeles Rams have agreed to be the featured team this season on HBO's "Hard Knocks."

• The NFL is considering playing a regular season game in the future in China. Goodell said "multiple teams" are interested in playing in China.

"I think the size and the influence of China in the global marketplaces is obviously something you can't ignore,'' Goodell said. "We can't ignore that as a sport, as a business, or as a nation. So from our standpoint we know we have lots of fans there and more importantly potential fans there."

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