What’s new in NFL? Plenty

Rex Ryan
FILE - In this June 16, 2015, file photo, Buffalo Bills head coach Rex Ryan speaks to the media during NFL football minicamp in Orchard Park, N.Y. Rex Ryan already has become an iconic figure in western New York, even though he hasn't coached a scrimmage, let alone a game for the Bills. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert, File)

NEW YORK (AP) — Bob Dylan sang about them. So did David Bowie.

For 2015, the NFL is embracing the message from those musical giants. Yes, the most successful of American sports leagues is into changes.

Extra-point attempts have been altered. Medical timeouts are the latest player safety measure. A female on-field official has a full-time job.

For all that’s new in the NFL, read on.

RULES CHANGES

By far the most obvious, if not necessarily the most impactful change, is moving the snap for extra-point kicks to the 15-yard line. The aims are clear: make the placement more difficult after it became virtually automatic, and entice teams to go for the 2-point conversion.

“So our hope is what we’ve done is we’ve added skill to the play, and then we will also see some increase in the attempts to go for two,” Texans general manager Rick Smith said. “We just felt like (the kick) … was almost a ceremonial play, the way it has languished here recently.”

Adding more intrigue: The defense can return the ball for a pair of points on a turnover or blocked kick.

Other meaningful modifications:

—All peel back blocks (hitting the defensive player from the side as he is running toward his own end zone) are outlawed;

—No blocking a defensive player below the waist when that player is engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the area originally occupied by the tight end;

—The defensive team on a punt can’t push teammates into the offensive formation, and anyone on the line must be outside the snapper’s pads;

—Linebackers can now wear numbers in the 40s;

—Ineligible receivers can’t line up outside the tackle box.

Enforcing some of these changes will be line judge Sarah Thomas, the first woman hired as a full-time official.

“I know it may be new for some, but I think being a part of the developmental program and going that way, maybe they’ll see me just as an official,” the 41-year-old Thomas said. “That’s how I want them to see me.”

MEDICAL TIMEOUTS

Spooked by Patriots wide receiver Julian Edelman remaining in the Super Bowl when he appeared disoriented from a hit, the NFL opted to allow a certified trainer at each stadium to serve as a spotter and order a medical timeout if a player appears to have such problems. The spotter would communicate with the side judge in such a situation and play would halt while the player was taken to the sideline and replaced. No timeout would be charged to the team.

OLD FACES IN NEW PLACES

Bring me a roster, now.

And not just for all the big-name players who have switched uniforms.

Rex Ryan already has become an iconic figure in western New York, even though he hasn’t coached a scrimmage, let alone a game for the Bills.

John Fox’s mutual agreement with the Broncos to leave Denver led to his landing in Chicago, a team in desperate need of a coach with a proven resume.

Joining defensive mastermind Ryan as newcomers in Buffalo are RB LeSean McCoy and WR Percy Harvin to spice up the offense. All-Pros DT Ndamukong Suh (Miami) and RB DeMarco Murray (Philadelphia) moved on for big money.

Long-time fixtures WR Andre Johnson in Houston and RB Frank Gore in San Francisco now reside in Indianapolis. Quarterback Andrew Luck has to be loving that.

The Colts also added veteran Eagles standout DE-LB Trent Cole to their defense.

It also might seem strange seeing Haloti Ngata in Lions blue instead of Ravens purple; A.J. Hawk wearing Bengals colors instead of Packers green and gold; and Jeremy Maclin in Arrowhead red rather than Eagles green.

The most significant change of address was made by Jimmy Graham, traded to Seattle by New Orleans. The tight end could be the key piece to lift the Seahawks’ offense closer to their all-world D.

“It’s all about having an opportunity and a chance at winning a championship and that’s all I care about,” Graham said. “If a team needs me to catch 100 footballs or a team needs me to catch 30 or a team needs me to catch 15 touchdowns or five touchdowns, I’m going to do it. I’m going to do whatever it takes to win.”

OLD FACES BACK IN OLD PLACES

How fitting that Gary Kubiak is back in Denver, Jack Del Rio in Oakland, and the Darrelle Revis/Antonio Cromartie combo will be patrolling the secondary for the Jets.

Well, if the Jets hadn’t bid adieu to that duo — Revis in 2013, Cromartie the next year — Ryan might still be coaching in the Meadowlands. New coach Todd Bowles will benefit from their returns, bolstering a defensive backfield that was awful last season.

Kubiak was drafted 196 spots behind John Elway in 1983 and was Elway’s backup for nine seasons. He also spent 11 years as an assistant coach with the Broncos before getting the head job in Houston. Elway hired him away from Baltimore, where Kubiak was offensive coordinator last season, to replace Fox.

“This place is special for me” Kubiak said.

As is the East Bay to Del Rio, who grew up in the Oakland area rooting for the Raiders. He never played nor coached for them — until now.

“Yes, it’s coming home; yes, I’m from this area; and, yes, I’m a lifelong Raider,” Del Rio said when he got the job. “I’ve been a Raider fan all my life. My dad took me and I sat in the stands way back when.”

THE EAGLES NEST

There isn’t anything coach Chip Kelly won’t try, even going so far as to bring in Tim Tebow, perhaps as a short-yardage and 2-point specialist. Kelly dealt QB Nick Foles for the oft-injured Sam Bradford, and outbid everyone for Murray. No training camp will be more intriguing than Philadelphia’s.

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AP NFL website: http://www.pro32.ap.org and http://www.twitter.com/AP_NFL

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