On top of the five rules to help with player safety, and getting rid of the unbalanced line like the Patriots used in the playoffs against the Ravens and Colts, the NFL also approved a few more rule changes as the NFL owners’ meetings wrapped up in Arizona on Wednesday.

Some of these include:

— Linebackers are now permitted to wear No.’s 40-49.

— Retractable roofs can now be opened at halftime, even if they were closed for the first half.

— Instant replay now includes a review of game clock on the final play of a half or overtime.

— Enforcement of an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty at the end of a half will now be applied to the ensuing kickoff to start the second half.

— The date for the beginning of the window during which players on the PUP list may begin practice has been modified to make it more competitively fair for teams playing on Thursday.

For complete details of all the NFL rules changes, visit the official NFL rules page here.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

The eligible receiver/ unbalanced line tactics the Patriots utilized in the AFC divisional playoff game agains the Ravens have now been ruled illegal. The league announced Wednesday that they have passed a proposal to make it  “illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible and line up outside the core of the formation.”

John Harbaugh and the Ravens are likely pretty happy after hearing that the unbalanced line the Patriots used in the playoffs is now illegal. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

John Harbaugh and the Ravens are likely pretty happy after hearing that the unbalanced line the Patriots used in the playoffs is now illegal. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

The eligible receiver/ unbalanced line tactics the Patriots utilized in the AFC divisional playoff game agains the Ravens have now been ruled illegal. The league announced Wednesday that they have passed a proposal to make it  “illegal for an offensive player with an eligible number to report as ineligible and line up outside the core of the formation.”

The genesis of the rule change came from the postseason contest between New England and Baltimore when Patriots ran a handful of plays using four offensive linemen and a running back (Shane Vereen) or tight end (Michael Hoomanawanui) lined up as the tackle. Before the plays, the Patriots informed the referee of the ineligible player, and on at least one occasion, the referee announced to the crowd that No. 34 (Vereen) was ineligible, adding “don’t cover (Vereen).”

The Ravens were clearly steamed at the legal sequence after the game. Ravens coach John Harbaugh called it “deception,” and took issue with the idea that “they don’t give you the chance to make the proper substations and things like that.”

He added: “We wanted an opportunity to be able to ID who the eligible players were. What (the Patriots) were doing was they announce the ineligible player and then Tom [Brady] would take them to the line right away and snap the ball before we had a chance to figure out who was lined up where. That was the deception part of it. It was clearly deception.”

In the midst of the confusion, the Patriots were able to capitalize — on three plays, New England hit on pass plays of 16, 11 and 14 yards. While it wasn’t the biggest turning point in the game, it was clear that it contributed to the normally unflappable Ravens coming unglued, as Baltimore twice choked up 14-point leads on the way to the Patriots win.

After the game, Brady was asked about the play.

“Maybe those guys (should) study the rule book and figure it out,” said the quarterback with a smile.

For more Patriots news, check out weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Christopher Price

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Mike Davis (Todd Bennett/GettyImages)

Mike Davis was plagued by injur (Todd Bennett/Getty Images)

MIKE DAVIS

Position: Running back

School: South Carolina

Height: 5-foot-9

Weight: 223 pounds

Achievements: 2013 All-SEC second team

What he brings: One of Davis’ valuable assets is his compact frame that, combined with his power and agility, might help him find a starting spot in the NFL. He accelerates quickly through holes, according to Rob Rang of CBS Sports, and is patient enough to let holes develop as well. NFL.com praises him for his ability to create separation in the back field and to the perimeter and mentions that his acceleration and spin move help him run.

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 3-4

Notes: Davis was bothered by nagging injuries for much of 2014, and one NFC South scout told NFL.com that he wasn’t the same player this past season. He carried the ball 199 times for 982 yards and 11 touchdowns in 2014. The year before, he rushed 203 times for 1,183 yards and 11 TDs. Rang wrote that Davis wore down in 2013, which is why he struggled last season, and noted that it might raise questions about his handling of an NFL workload. His brother, James Davis, was a running back at Clemson and bounced around the NFL from 2009 until 2011.

Related articles:

Mike Davis’ move to go pro was with mom in mind 

South Carolina back Mike Davis draws high praise

Video: Here are highlights of Davis vs. Missouri in 2014.

Blog Author: 
Judy Cohen

Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh said Wednesday she will allow some of Aaron Hernandez’s phone calls from jail to be used by the prosecution in its murder case against the former Patriot.

Superior Court Judge Susan Garsh said Wednesday she will allow some of Aaron Hernandez’s phone calls from jail to be used by the prosecution in its murder case against the former Patriot.

Hernandez’s lawyers had asked for those conversations — including those with his fiancee and Dolphins offensive lineman Mike Pouncey (a former University of Florida teammate) — to be excluded. The prosecution said it did not plan to use the calls with Pouncey.

Garsh said she would rule later on which calls could be included.

Also Wednesday, Garsh said prosecutors are “about a week or so” away from resting their case in the trial, which has gone on for eight weeks.

Hernandez is accused of killing Odin Lloyd in June 2013.

Blog Author: 
Jerry Spar

For the Patriots, linebacker Dont’a Hightower isn’t the only player to have offseason shoulder surgery.

For the Patriots, linebacker Dont’a Hightower isn’t the only player to have offseason shoulder surgery.

According to ESPN Boston’s Mike Reiss, right tackle Sebastian Vollmer underwent shoulder surgery after the Super Bowl. The surgery has reportedly altered his offseason to more of a focus on rehabilitation rather than a traditional workout regimen.

The report adds the surgery was to Vollmer’s labrum, although it was never serious enough to keep him out of game action. Vollmer is spending time at Gillette Stadium now rehabbing the injury and is expected to be ready “for action when it counts.”

Vollmer was drafted in the second round of the 2009 draft and has spent all seven seasons in the league with the Patriots, emerging as one of the better right tackles in the league.

For more Patriots news, visit weei.com/patriots.

Blog Author: 
Ryan Hannable

WEEI.com will continue to offer daily insight and analysis regarding options that may be available to the Patriots when it comes to the 2015 NFL draft. Here is one in a series of profiles of players who could be on the board when it’s time for the Patriots to make a selection.

Derron Smith (Harry How/Getty Images)

Derron Smith (top) is a little small for an NFL free safety, but his production can’t be questioned. (Harry How/Getty Images)

DERRON SMITH

Position: Free safety

School: Fresno State

Height: 5-foot-11

Weight: 197 pounds

Achievements: 2014 Mountain West Preseason Defensive Player of the Year, 2013 All-Mountain West first team, watch lists for Bednarik and Thorpe Awards for best defensive back, 2012 All-Mountain West first team

What he brings: Smith is applauded by experts for his awareness and ability to read offenses. Scouts like his ability to match up with receivers on the line as well as in high coverage. The biggest concern for many is his size, which may create problems defending tight ends and tall receivers. NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein says Smith “lacks ideal size for the position but checks off just about every other box teams will be looking for.”

Where the Patriots could get him: Rounds 2-4

Notes: Smith suffered a season-ending broken arm in the third game of his 2011 sophomore season. ESPN.com ranks him as the second safety and 67th overall in the draft.

Related articles:

Record Gazette: Smith looking forward to NFL

NFL.com: Smith improving his game

Video: Here are Smith’s interceptions throughout his career at Fresno State.

Blog Author: 
Nik Beimler

Patriots owner Robert Kraft and Jets owner Woody Johnson now have something new to squabble about. (Jared Wickerham/Getty Images)Two decades ago, it was the Border War. Now?