Welcome back, NFL

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Welcome back, NFL

All things considered, theres never a bad time to welcome in the start of a new NFL season. Honestly, Ive done the research, and never in the history of professional American football, dating back to the first ever game between the Dayton Triangles and Columbus Panhandles (October 3, 1920), has a self-respecting fan woken up on the morning of the season opener and thought: No, no. This ALL wrong. Somebody make it stop!

Well, not including Bills fans.

Anyway, while theres never a bad time to kick off another NFL season, there are years here in Boston, at least when we undoubtedly need it more than others. For instance, lets say its been a particularly troubling summer for the Red Sox. Lets say, and Im just throwing out numbers here, that the Sox are in the midst of a stretch where theyve lost 13 of 17 games and find themselves much closer to the American League basement (6.5 games) than either of the two Wild Card spots (14 games). Lets say the Bruins are headed for a presumably lengthy lockout, the Celtics are still two months away and, just to sweeten the pot, its been raining nonstop for two days. In times like this times like NOW the NFL season turns from luxury to necessity. From a cold beer at the end of the work day to an 8 a.m. Irish coffee that an alcoholic needs to kick start the morning.

We get the shakes just thinking about it. About that moment when the opening kickoff takes flight tonight at MetLife Stadium (8:30 pm, NBC), as the bulbs start flashing and Al Michaels announces to the world: And the 2012 NFL season is officially underway . . .

Followed by the kick sailing out of the end zone for a touch back.

Wah. Wah.

Yeah, so the NFLs not perfect. Nothing is. And from now through February, well all be faced with our share of NFL-related pain. First and foremost, theres the fact that for the next 22 Sundays and Monday nights youll be able to look across the room at your wife or girlfriend and know that shes legitimately questioning your relationship. Theres also the anger that comes with every Patriots loss, and the emptiness that accompanies every bad fantasy week. On the hopefully rare occasion that the Pats and your fantasy team lose on the same week, the sky will get dark and youll question why you ever put yourself through this in the first place. Youll think: Holy crap, Im a grown man and still falling into a depression over a fake football team.

And then there are injuries. Theres nothing worse than watching one of these players go down, and knowing in a split second that you wont see him again until next year. Or the look on a guys face when hes got a towel over his head and one leg up on the back of a motorized cart like hes being ushered off to the glue factory.

(Quick note: Nows a good time to remind everyone that its very possible for a player with a torn ACL to walk off under his own power. Brady did it. Terrell Owens did it. Many players have done, and will do it again. I say this because theres nothing more infuriating than watching a guy clearly tear his ACL and then hearing the fan next to you yell: Wait! Hes walking off under his own power! Hes gonna be all right!! No, hes not. Youre just making it worse.)

There are ACLs and broken bones, and then there are concussions. And you know that will once again be in the spotlight. Current players will be knocked out, while others will be suspended. Former players will die in their 40s and 50s. The producers at Outside The Lines and Real Sports will be working overtime to expose all thats wrong with the system and why the NFL needs to be stopped. And there might be a few times when you actually believe them. When you see the research, think about the numbers, and wonder: Man, what the hell are we rooting for here?

But it wont last.

At the end of the day, you can never stay mad at the NFL.

Not even after tonight, when youre forced to sit through a three-hour tribute to one of Bostons two most painful post-"18-1" losses.

We all know its coming, right? It's going to be a celebration in New York. There will a banner and speeches and endless discussions about Eli Mannings place in history. If were lucky, theyll throw in a couple clips of Welkers drop just to eliminate any sense of self-worth.

It will be a bittersweet beginning to most exciting season in sports.

But here in Boston, it couldn't have come soon enough.

Rich can be reached at rlevine@comcastsportsnet.com. Follow Rich on Twitter at http:twitter.comrich_levine

Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

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Rules changes are in: Field-goal leap, crackback blocks banned

PHOENIX -- The NFL has announced which rules, bylaw and resolution proposals passed following Tuesday's vote at the Arizona Biltmore. The full list is below, but here are a couple of the noteworthy changes from a Patriots perspective . . . 

* That leap-the-line play that Jamie Collins and Shea McClellin have executed for the Patriots over the course of the last two seasons? That's been prohibited, as expected. The league did not want coaches to be responsible for putting a player in a position where he may suffer a head or neck injury. (Which is different from a player putting himself in that position with a split-second decision to leave his feet mid-play.)

* Receivers running pass routes can now be considered "defenseless." That means that even within the five-yard "chuck" area beyond the line of scrimmage will have some measure of protection. The Patriots, like many teams, have called for linebackers to disrupt the routes of shallow crossers, which can lead to monster hits on unexpecting players. Those types of collisions may now be fewer and farther between.

* Crackback blocks are now prohibited by a player who is in motion, even if the player is not more than two yards outside the tackle box at the snap. What's the Patriots connection here? It seems as though the overtime play that won Super Bowl LI -- during which Julian Edelman came in motion and "cracked" down on corner Brian Poole -- is now illegal. We'll look for clarification on this when the league holds its press conference describing the rules changes later on Tuesday.

Approved 2017 Playing Rules Proposals

2a. By Philadelphia; Prohibits the “leaper” block attempt on field goal and extra point plays. (Final language will be available on NFLCommunications.com)  

8.   By Competition Committee; Makes permanent the rule that disqualifies a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. 

9.   By Competition Committee; Changes the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

11. By Competition Committee; Gives a receiver running a pass route defenseless player protection. 

12. By Competition Committee; Makes crackback blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped. 

13. By Competition Committee; Replaces the sideline replay monitor with a hand-held device and authorizes designated members of the Officiating department to make the final decision on replay reviews. 

14. By Competition Committee; Makes it Unsportsmanlike Conduct to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

15. By Competition Committee; Makes actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

Approved 2017 Bylaw Proposals

4.     By Competition Committee; Liberalizes rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club’s facility for one year only. 

5.     By Competition Committee; Changes the procedures for returning a player on Reserve/Physically Unable to Perform or Reserve/Non-Football Injury or Illness to the Active List to be similar to those for returning a player that was Designated for Return.  

6.     By Competition Committee; The League office will transmit a Personnel Notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

Approved 2017 Resolution Proposal

G-4.     By Competition Committee: Permits a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.

Bowles on if Revis can still compete physically: 'I don't know for sure'

Bowles on if Revis can still compete physically: 'I don't know for sure'

PHOENIX -- Todd Bowles wasn't asked if he thinks Darrelle Revis can be a All-Pro level player. He wasn't asked if Revis has it in him to be a No. 1 corner again.

The bar was much lower. 

Can Revis, who will be 32 at the start of next season, still be a serviceable player? Does he have the physical ability to be competitive?

Bowles should know. He coached Revis with the Jets each of the last two years. But his answer was far from definitive.

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"If he goes ahead and proves it, yeah he does," Bowles said during the AFC coaches breakfast on Tuesday. "But we'll see. I don't know for sure. I can't answer that. Only he can."

It's been a remarkable fall from grace for Revis, who re-signed with the Jets as a free agent after winning a Super Bowl with the Patriots. He was given $39 million fully guaranteed and went on to make the Pro Bowl in his first season back.

Last year, however, he had his worst season and was arguably among the worst full-time corners in the league. Quarterbacks completed almost two-thirds of their passes sent in his direction, and they had a rating of 104.2 when targeting the player formerly known as Revis Island.

"I love the guy. I love the player," Bowles said. "He didn't have a great year, but we didn't have a great season so he wasn't the only one. It's all about coming back and proving you can still do it every year. That can only be answered when you come back and do it."

The Jets released him earlier this offseason despite the fact that he's guaranteed $6 million by the team whether he plays in 2017 or not.

Now that Revis is looking for a job, New England has been cited by some as the most logical place for him to land. Asked about the potential of having Revis back, Patriots owner Robert Kraft told the New York Daily News on Monday that he'd be all for it.

“I would love it," Kraft said. "Speaking for myself, if he wanted to come back, he’s a great competitor, I’d welcome him if he wanted to come.”

At this point, however, a reunion seems unlikely. 

The Patriots are looking at the potential of having Stephon Gilmore, Malcolm Butler, Eric Rowe, Cyrus Jones and Jonathan Jones all on the roster at corner next season -- though there is some question as to whether or not Butler will stick. 

And if Revis is hoping to make a move to safety, he'd probably have a hard time finding playing time as part of a group that will include Devin McCourty, Duron Harmon and Patrick Chung. 

Then there's the question as to his motivation. After winning a Super Bowl, and after making as much money as he's made, with an easy $6 million more staring him in the face, will Revis be ready to re-adapt to the demands of playing in New England?

Even if he is, there could very well be physical limitations impacting Revis' effectiveness moving forward. Bowles acknowledged that for some at Revis' age who play his position, the drop-off can come quickly.

"Sometimes it can. Sometimes it can't," Bowles said. "Every story is different. You have to write your own so he has to write his."