The CFL came into the new season with a handful of new rules that were meant to inject some more excitement into an already exciting product on the field. The CFL is forever fighting the battle of legitimacy because of our neighbors to the south having a larger than life football entertainment. A new set of rules voted in by the CFL board of governors aim to do just that. If you are not up on the rules; here's a rundown:
1) Holding the five interior players at the line of scrimmage until the ball is kicked: What the heck does that mean? Well, it means that the center that snaps the ball, as well as the two players on either side of the center have to stay where they are until the ball is kicked from the punter. CFL vice president of officiating has stated that this rule change gives more time to the punt returner, less "no yards" penalties, and less illegal blocking by the returning team. This new rule is aiming to give the returning team a better chance to make a fantastic run before being mauled by their opponents. Unless your name was Cory Banks, you were not going anywhere after you caught the ball on a punt return last year. Teams were on the returner like white on rice, which made for a much more boring play. Now the field has opened up more for the flashy runners to gain some more yards.
2) Illegal Blocking on the Defense: No longer can the cornerbacks harass the receivers after 5 yards. This rule is for pure entertainment and high scoring affairs. The board of governors found that there was too much grabbing and obstructing from the cornerbacks and safeties against the receivers. After the receivers get past five yards from the line of scrimmage, defenders are not allowed to push, grab, or obstruct the receivers ability to catch the ball. The defender will have to try and knock the ball out of the air or have a brilliantly timed hit that will cause the receiver problems holding onto the ball. This rule was on full display when the B.C Lions took on the Roughriders last Friday at BC Place Stadium. The Roughriders Kevin Glenn was able to complete 23 of 29 passes for 271 yards, but the most impressive part of his play was that he connected with Weston Dressler on numerous occasions including 2 wide open touchdowns that made their opponents defense look completely silly. The Lions QB Travis Lulay did pretty darn good as well with a 77% completion record with an astounding 400 yards passing. Lulay finally found the openings that he had been searching 3 quarters for, as he roared back from a two touchdown deficit to force overtime. All this action would not be possible without the blocking rule change for defense.
3) Longer Field Goals and Short Two-Point converts: This may not seem significant, but it definitely is for a couple reasons. The first reason is that the point after is no longer an after thought. Most of the time, when fans are watching the game, the extra point is so close to the uprights that everyone expects the ball to go through. One of the biggest reasons that people watch sports is because the athletes are challenged on every play or every shift. The board of governors understood this particular problem and decided to bring the extra point back from 5 yards to 25 yards away. As the vice-president of officiating, Johnson, stated, "the likelyhood of the kicker making the point after goes from 99.6% to around 80%" (MontrealGazzette.com). People will now covet the point after as entertaining instead of routine. Second, the reason this rule change is significant is because now there will be more two-point conversions. Last year teams tried a two-point conversion only 30% of the time after a touchdown. Now, the CFL predicts between a 40%-50% likelyhood that teams will go for the extra exciting play instead of kicking it through the uprights. Much more strategy is being implemented when you have to plan whether you wan to take a chance on another endzone play or kicking the football. Another aspect of this new rule that coaches have to factor in is, the starting point for a two-point convert is now even closer to the endzone. Before, teams would have to start their conversion on the 5 yard line, now they are starting it on the 3 yard line. Johnson stated that they wanted to make the extra point harder and the two-point convert easier to make the more exciting play more appealing to the coaches. This was again in full display at Friday's entertaining match-up between Saskatchewan and B.C. Lions kicker Richie Lionne made , what many thought to be a crucial missed extra point (after the Roughriders completed a couple of two-point converts), before making a clutch 54 yard field goal to push it to overtime. An amazing play made possible by intelligent rule changes by the league.
Unlike rule changes from other leagues that sometimes don't pan out the way the board of governors would like, this has been a breath of fresh air. The fact that we even give a damn about the extra point, is something spectacular. The fact that we get to see more highlight reel plays from our star player, is a sorely missed aspect of the game over the last year. The fact that Travis Lulay hasn't shattered like glass over the first couple of games has been a huge bonus to Lions fans everywhere. I am Smoke Stark and this has been my informative rant on the new CFL rules. Thanks for reading, and, in the Game of Thrones, you win or you die.