It looks like the New England Patriots won’t be able to sprinkle in their very effective ineligible-receiver tactic this season.
The NFL’s competition committee passed a rule at the league’s annual meetings Wednesday barring any offensive player who reports as ineligible on a given play but wears the number of an eligible pass receiver from lining up outside the tackle box.
The tactic gained recognition when the Patriots used it with great success in the second half of their win over the Ravens in the divisional round of the playoffs. Running back Shane Vereen declared himself ineligible and lined up outside the tackle box while tight end Michael Hoomanawani lined up as a tackle and was eligible.
Vereen did not cross the line of scrimmage — ineligible receivers are not allowed to do so — but it still caused confusion among referees and the Ravens, who allowed a touchdown on the drive.
Other rule changes passed Wednesday include:
▪ Teams with retractable roofs can open the roofs at halftime, even if they were closed in the first half.
▪ Linebackers can now wear numbers in the 40s; they used to only be able to wear numbers in the 50s and 90s. This rule was changed due to a shortage of numbers.
▪ Unsportsmanlike conduct penalties called at the end of the half may now be applied to the ensuing kickoff. Prior to the change, they could not be carried over to the second half.
▪ Teams can now make one player eligible to return to the active roster from the reserve/injured list after 3 p.m. Central on the day following the final roster cutdowns.
▪ A player placed on the physically unable to perform list can return on the sixth calendar day prior to the team’s seventh-regular season game. This will be more fair to teams that play on their seventh games on Thursday, because it will give players on the PUP list a little more practice time before that seventh game. Prior to the rule change, players on the PUP list couldn’t return until the day following the sixth regular season game.
You can read the six rule changes that were passed by the committee on Tuesday here.