PHOENIX — The NFL adopted a new player-safety rule on Tuesday that could potentially have prevented Julian Edelman’s late-game heroics in last month’s Super Bowl.
The NFL’s owners unanimously passed Resolution G-2, in which the concussion spotters in the press box at each game now have the ability to directly contact the officials on the field and call for a medical timeout if a player shows “obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable” and it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game.
According to the language of the rule, “Upon being called by the ATC Spotter, the side judge will immediately stop the game, go to the player in question, and await the arrival of the team’s medical personnel to ensure that the player is attended to and escorted off the field. The game and play clock will stop [if running], and remain frozen until the player is removed from the game.”
“Once removed from the field, the team medical staff will conduct an evaluation of the player as required by the governing protocols before making any decision regarding the player’s eligibility to return to play. The return-to-play decision will be made by the medical staff consistent with the protocols.”
The player will be forced to sit out at least one play before being allowed to return to the game, if he passes the concussion test.
The rule has been unofficially dubbed the “Julian Edelman Rule” after the Patriots’ receiver took a nasty hit from Seattle safety Kam Chancellor with about 11 minutes left in the fourth quarter of the Patriots’ Super Bowl win. Edelman appeared to be woozy, but remained in the game and made several more important catches, including the game-winning touchdown.
In the press box, reporters overheard the concussion spotter radioing down to the sideline multiple times that Edelman needed to be checked for a concussion, yet he never left the game. Former Chargers team doctor David Chao, attending the game as a member of the media, later wrote that he observed Edelman being checked by two medical professionals on the sideline — a Patriots doctor and an independent doctor — and after the professionals went through the protocol and reviewed several minutes of video, allowed Edelman to return to the Patriots’ bench.
But after the game, Edelman was elusive about his well-being.
“We’re not allowed to speak about injuries right now,” Edelman said at the time.
When asked Tuesday morning whether Edelman took a concussion test that game, Patriots coach Bill Belichick replied, “You have to talk to the medical people about that. I’m coaching the game.”
The owners voted on several other rules proposals on Tuesday. Of the 13 proposals that pertain to altering the instant replay system, only one passed — Tennessee’s proposal to allow officials to use instant replay to fix the game clock. Eleven of the other replay proposals were either rejected or withdrawn, including the Patriots’ pitch to allow coaches to challenge any call by the officials.
It’s the second year in a row that the Patriots proposed this change and the NFL owners shot it down. Only one other replay rule is still alive — the Patriots’ proposal to add more cameras to the boundary lines for instant replay use was tabled for further research and information.
The NFL also approved four other player safety measures: The Dolphins’ proposal to eliminate all peel-back blocks; the Ravens’ proposal to prevent players from pushing their teammates into the offensive linemen during a punt; extending defenseless player protection to receivers immediately following an interception; and preventing running backs from engaging in chop blocks outside the area occupied by the tight end.
The owners are not done voting on all of the rules proposals yet, and still must decide on the competition committee’s proposal to limit the eligible-ineligible tactics the Patriots used in the playoffs against the Ravens.
Belichick noted on Tuesday that the eligible-ineligible proposal — which would make it illegal for running backs or receivers to declare themselves ineligible and line up outside the tackles — could have unintended consequences that the competition committee may not have thought through.
“It would affect a lot of other plays, spread punt formations, stuff like that,” Belichick said.
The NFL will also consider several changes to the extra point on Wednesday, including a proposal from the Patriots to make the extra point a 33-yard kick to make it a more competitive play, and another proposal to move the line of scrimmage from the 2 to the 1-yard line, to encourage teams to go for a two-point conversion more often.