Packers General Manager Ted Thompson said rules changes adopted at this week’s owners meetings in New Orleans will not alter how his personnel department scouts players, grades players or how Thompson makes his decision on how to pick those players in next month’s draft.

“Good players are good players,” Thompson told packers.com.

The two-day meetings concluded with a vote on two significant rules-change proposals. The results are:

  • The free-kick line for kickoffs will be moved up five yards to the 35-yard line.
  • Replay review will be used for all scoring plays.

 

A proposal to expand the “defenseless receiver” rule was tabled.

Thompson termed the change of the free-kick line an “effort by the league to cut down on injuries.” The 20-yard line will continue to be the scrimmage line for touchbacks but members of the kicking team must remain within five yards of the free-kick line as the play begins; in other words, the kickoff team’s running start has been shortened to five yards.

“Everybody has a different idea, but player safety is very important and the integrity of the game is very important,” Thompson said.

The theory is that shortening the field will reduce the impact of collisions during kickoffs.

“Change like this usually takes 2-3 years to see the effects,” Thompson said.

The use of replay review following all scoring plays wasn’t a hard sell. Thompson said there is consensus among the league’s teams for “getting it right.” The only concern for reviewing all scoring plays is that it’ll increase the scrutiny.

“You might not know it’s being reviewed. There won’t be a stoppage of play. The implementation is the tough part,” Thompson said.

The most controversial rules-change discussions at the owners meetings involved protecting “defenseless receivers.” Can even more protection for quarterbacks be far behind? The league is sensitive to two issues – player safety and maintaining the physical nature of the game – and blending the two is a difficult task.

“A lot of discussion about that,” Thompson said. “Everybody’s heart is in the right place. At the end of the day, the competition committee wanted to take it back and look at it, change wording. Nothing’s changed, yet. They tabled the vote.

“I don’t buy this theory that it’s softened the game,” Thompson added of recent changes to promote player safety. “It’s a physical game and it’ll always be a physical game. Anybody who doesn’t think it is hasn’t watched enough football. We’re trying to take away the obvious, nonsensical hit. That’s what you’re trying to get rid of.”

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 39 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.