Notes: O-lines put on notice with no more chop block; Dialing it back

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Bengals left guard Clint Boling: no chop block challenges run game.

BOCA RATON, Fla. _ NFL owners passed a spate of rules changes Tuesday at their annual meeting, the most significant of which eliminates all chop blocks and has put the Bengals offensive line and the 31 others on notice.

Life just got a bit tougher.

Offensive linemen are now prohibited from hitting a defender low while another hits him high in a move that some on offense suggest is going to encourage defenders to hold more and prevents their linemen from getting to the second level in the run game.

Bengals Pro Bowl left tackle Andrew Whitworth doesn't think his team's running game is going to be impacted as much as others. But it's a big change when it comes to blocking the outside zone run.

"We're not a team that does a lot of cutbacks. Not a lot of outside zones," Whitworth said. "The Texans and (Broncos) are built around those back-side cuts. But it's like anything else. The game adapts and we'll adapt."

Bengals left guard Clint Boling said the outside zone play is going to have to be changed.

"Realistically it's going to make running the ball tougher," Boling said. "(The chop block) is a staple of how the outside zone is run. It's going to be hard the way it's traditionally run. There'll be a change, but I don't know what it's going to be."

Both understand the concern for safety. Boling says there is nothing wrong with a proper, straight, clean chop block, but it is the ones from behind or other poor angles that are a problem.

"If we're talking about a safety issue," Whitworth said, "at the end of the day if they're trying to keep guys healthy, you have to be for that."

 Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis, a member of the NFL competition committee,  says the move was done for safety.

"I don't think the chop block doesn't  necessarily help the defense as much as making offenses adjust  and the offensive player go a little further  to get the guy blocked without an opportunity to injure a guy," Lewis said.

"If you teach (holding), you're going to get two-holed, anyway. In my opinion, when you teach that you give up a lot of big runs anyway. It's going to help keep linemen healthy."

The owners also voted to make the 33-yard extra point permanent after accuracy dipped from 99 percent to about 93, which is what they were seeking last season. It virtually had no impact on the Bengals. Mike Nugent, who had three perfect seasons as a Bengal on extras, along with two misses, missed one of his 49 attempts and it was a block.

Other rule changes approved Tuesday:

­- Offensive and defensive play callers can use the coach-to-player communication system regardless of whether they are on the field or in the coaches' booth. For the last five years the Bengals' play callers have been on the field and new offensive coordinator Ken Zampese has said he'll be on the field this season.

  • The horse collar penalty now includes a defender grabbing the jersey at the name plate or above and pulls a runner toward the ground.
  • A team now incurs a delay-of-game penalty when it attempts to call a timeout when it is not permitted.
  • It is no longer a five-yard penalty for an eligible receiver touching a forward pass after being out of bounds and re-establishing himself inbounds. It is now a loss of down.
  • There are no longer multiple spots of enforcement for a double foul after a change of possession. DIAL IT BACK:Steelers linebacker Ryan Shazier's concussion-inducing shot on Bengals running back Giovani Bernard in the Wild Card Game wasn't called a penalty even though many Bengals thought it should have been.

On Monday the NFL Competition Committee re-interpreted the rule and it would now be a penalty for using the crown of the helmet outside the tackle box. And no fumble, too.

But Lewis didn't want to hear about it.

"That's happened way in the past. I don't think we even have to speak about that. You're not going to bring anything back. The interpretation of the rule wasn't quiet that and that's the way it was ruled," said Lewis, who says he's not bitter. "It can be a dangerous play for a defender to lower his head like that. We want to teach guys to tackle with their eyes up."

Speaking just a few tables away at Tuesday's AFC Coaches media breakfast was Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, at the moment the biggest villain in Bengaldom. Tomlin, also a competition committee member, still claims it was not an illegal hit as they trial to dial back the series.

"I think we all agree that it's an ugly hit," Tomlin said. "It's not one that we want in football. It wasn't illegal. We just looked at the language around the rule and softened it or altered it in a minor way to make sure that we are creating a climate where those hits don't occur."

 It wasn't illegal at the time because officials ruled Shazier didn't hit Bernard with the crown of his helmet straight on. Now it's been changed so that no matter the angle no defender is allowed to use the crown of his helmet outside the tackle box. One competition committee member not Lewis nor Tomlin said it should have been called anyway.  

 "I thought that was already part of the rule," Whitworth said. "There's no more way to line up a guy than sitting in zone coverage and waiting for him to catch the ball and stick your helmet in his face. That's as lined up as it gets."

The play crystalized the last two tumultuous games between the teams. This from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette: they combined for 330 penalty yards with 12 penalties for either unnecessary roughness (seven) or unsportsmanlike conduct (five).

Lewis said he knew he was going to get questions about the game, but he didn't elaborate and said that he expects the rivalry to continue, but not the extracurricular activities.

"I was in a similar game in the AFC Championship against the Ravens a number of years ago before the player safety initiative," Tomlin said of the 2008 game. " I didn't know at that time the ramifications of some of the things that occurred in that game and how it would potentially affect football moving forward. I had a better, probably perspective, based on experience when I walked out of the stadium (Paul Brown Stadium) that night."

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