John Mara talks rule changes and concussions

Posted Feb 5, 2016

John Mara spoke Friday to discuss possible rule changes in 2016 and the latest on concussions in the NFL

SAN FRANCISCO – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell today said the NFL should pursue a policy where if a player is penalized twice for personal fouls in a game it would result in an automatic ejection.

“I believe that’s consistent with what we believe are safety issues, but I also believe it’s consistent with what we believe are standards of sportsmanship that we emphasize,” Goodell said at his annual news conference two days before the Super Bowl. “We should take that out of the hands of the officials when it gets to that point.  They’ll obviously have to throw the flag, but when they do, we’ll look to see if we can reach an agreement on the conditions of which they’ll be ejected.”

Goodell said he has “spoken” to the league’s competition committee on the matter. But Giants president John Mara, a committee member for 15 years, was surrounded by reporters after Goodell finished and said, “That’s the first that I’ve heard about it. I’d want to think about it a little bit more, but I am inclined to go in that direction. I think it would set a clear line and maybe take it out of the officials’ discretion.”

The proposal stems in part from the extracurricular activity that occurred during the Dec. 20 Giants-Carolina Panthers game. Wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and cornerback Josh Norman clashed several times after the whistle. Beckham was flagged three times for personal fouls, Norman twice.

“Both of them should’ve been ejected,” Mara said. “Maybe if we had this rule, it would make it a little more clear.”

Mara, however, objected when a reporter called the proposed change, “the Odell Beckham Rule.”

“Well, I think that’s a little unfair,” Mara said. “Again, it’s the first I’ve heard about it. I want to discuss it a little bit more at our committee. But I’m inclined to be supportive of it, because it would remove some of the discretion from the officials and set a clear line. And I think players would be aware of that, that ‘Hey, I’ve got one. If I get one more, I’m out of the game.’ I think there’s a lot of merit to that.”

Before the change would be approved, details must be worked out. For example, would an accidental facemask penalty carry the same weight as a deliberate helmet-to-helmet hit?

“That’s one of the things we’d have to discuss,” Mara said. “Is it going to apply to all personal fouls, or just certain personal fouls?”

*Mara, like Goodell, was asked several questions about concussions in the NFL, specifically the recent report that said concussions rose 31 percent in the 2015 season.

“When that statistic came out, it certainly caught my attention,” Mara said. “But again, I want to understand the reasons for that. Are we just diagnosing more, is there more self-reporting, or are we actually having more incidents? I don’t fully understand that yet. That’s something our committee will look at in Indianapolis in a couple of weeks.”

Mara emphasized the league is working hard to make the game safer.

“To me, player safety is always going to be our No. 1 issue, no matter what else happens,” he said. “That’s why we spend so much time on the rules, so much time on the health and safety committee. We’ve got to keep working on it to take some of these injuries out of the game. We spend a lot of time on that, not only with rule changes but looking at equipment, talking about how practices are run. I think that’s something that has to be a continuing effort going forward.
"I think it’s going in the right direction. I think certainly the statistics this year are a little bit alarming. But I want to understand all the reasons for that first. We’ll meet in Indianapolis with our Health & Safety committee, and hopefully I’ll get a better understanding. That certainly caught my attention. I think we are heading in the right direction, but we’re not even close to being there yet.”