Vikings have an effect on 2012 rule changes
The Vikings' 2009 NFC Championship Game is being relived once again, more than two years after causing heartache across a frozen land of lakes.
While NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is still contemplating discipline for the players involved in the wide-ranging Bountygate scandal (incentives to injure players) that continues to upend the New Orleans Saints, winners of that NFC Championship and the ensuing Super Bowl, there is another reason – aside from Boutygate – that playoff game following the 2009 season was meaningful this week.
The Saints, as the Vikings are trying to forget, won 31-28 in overtime, but quarterback Brett Favre had a chance to get the Vikings into game-winning field-oal territory at the end of regulation when he threw an interception to Tracy Porter. The Saints didn't win the game right after that interception, which was returned to the New Orleans 48-yard line with seven seconds to go, but it didn't take the Saints too much longer to finish off the Vikings, who fumbled six times, lost three of them and threw two interceptions.
The Saints converted two first downs on their game-winning drive – one on a defensive holding call on Asher Allen and another on a defensive pass interference call on Ben Leber – and were in position for a game-winning, 40-yard field goal to send them to the Super Bowl. The Vikings never had a chance for a game-tying or game-winning drive in overtime after Garrett Hartley connected on his 40-yard kick.
Largely because of the way the Vikings lost out in that NFC Championship, the NFL adopted a new rule for the 2010 and 2011 playoffs, stating that postseason games that went into overtime couldn't end on a field goal on the first possession. The opposing team must get one series, and if it also kicks a field goal, the extra period continues. After Wednesday's vote of owners, that rule now extends to the regular season.
The Vikings had their mark all over the overtime rule, the NFL approved four other changes to the rules, as well.
1) All plays resulting in a turnover will be automatically reviewed via instant replay.
2) A team that illegally kicks a loose ball will lose a down.
3) Too many men on the field will be enforced as a dead-ball foul.
4) A player who receives a "crackback" block will be considered a defenseless player, meaning the block will be counted as a 15-yard penalty.
Two other rules proposals failed to pass, and other proposals were tabled, including an interesting one dealing with the status of a player on injured reserve. Currently, a player placed on injured reserve is done for the season. However, owners are expected to look at altering that rule during their next meeting in May.
If passed under the March proposal, a player could return to the active roster from injured reserve after six weeks and play after eight weeks.
"We felt there was some really good input and we felt like we would table them. We will vote on them in May," said Rich McKay, chairman of the NFL's competition committee. "… We just have some work to do on those."
A change in the injured reserve rule might have affected some Vikings' decision in the previous few years.
Last year, linebacker Jasper Brinkley had hip surgery in late August and had his season ended when the Vikings placed him on injured reserve. As it turned out, he might have been able to play the final few games of the season, according to what he told ESPN 1500, if he hadn't been place on the season-ending list. With active rosters limited to 53 players, the Vikings needed his roster spot.
While Brinkley would have been mostly a reserve last year, he might have seen additional playing time at the end of the season with middle linebacker E.J. Henderson dealing with soreness in his knee the entire season. With Brinkley now viewed as a potential starter in place of Henderson, who remains a free agent, the end-of-season mop-up duty might have proved a valuable testing ground for Brinkley.
But the Vikings may have had a few other, more prominent, times in previous seasons where a revision to the injured reserve designation could have helped.
In 2010, Chris Cook was a second-round draft pick and starting to make an impression in training camp. But when the preseason started, so did issues with Cook's knees. A sprained meniscus thwarted Cook's preseason progress and he was inactive for the first two games of the season.
Simultaneously at the start of September, Cedric Griffin was still recovering from a more serious torn anterior cruciate ligament that he injured in the NFC Championship Game less than eight months prior to the start of the 2010 season.
Griffin and Cook each rushed back into duty and each suffered the consequences. With the combination of Antoine Winfield, Allen and Lito Sheppard as the starting cornerbacks for the first two games of 2010, Griffin and Cook each tried to play in the third game of the season and each started.
Griffin lasted only two starts before he tore the ACL in his other knee and was placed on injured reserve, ending his season. For Cook, the third regular-season game was his only active one in the first five games of the season. He worked his way back onto the playing field for an Oct. 24 outing at Green Bay that exposed his lack of explosion because of the meniscus, but desperate to make an impression and with the team looking to salvage his roster spot, Cook started the next four games before damage to his other meniscus finally convinced him to shut it down for three more weeks before spending the final three weeks of the season on injured reserve.
Had the new rules for injured reserve applied, the Vikings might have considered shutting down Cook or Griffin – or both – for the first half of the season knowing that they could use their roster spots on another player. The extra healing time might have allowed each of them to gain back more strength and explosiveness and avoid their second knee injuries in 2010.
The new rule might have also had an effect on the way the Vikings dealt with Sidney Rice's preseason hip surgery in 2010. Rice missed the first nine games on the reserve-physically unable to perform list and by the time he returned to action the Vikings were desperately trying to turn around a losing season that featured the four-week failed experiment that was Randy Moss' return to purple and Brad Childress' eventual ouster.
Interestingly, the new rules proposal dealing with injured reserve looks a little like an old rule. Until 1990, players on injured reserve were required to sit out six games. In 1993, the NFL implemented the current system, where injured reserve means the end of the season for a player because teams tried to put promising prospects on the reserve list rather than releasing them.
Whether the proposal for injured reserve passes in May or not, the change in the overtime rule came three years too late for the Vikings, who haven't been back to the playoffs since their loss to the Saints.
For more coverage, visit the Viking Update website.