League changes punt return rule

JONATHAN HUNTINGTON -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 1:01 PM ET

Although the instant replay debate continues, the CFL rules committee is trying to bring some excitement back to the punt return game.

The league rulebook is about to be edited with new wording for the no-yards penalty.

After fans and insiders complained about tacklers deliberately taking a five-yard penalty last year by surrounding the ball at a punt-returner's feet to limit his return, the rules committee has changed the infraction to be a much more costly 15-yard penalty.

With an expected rubber stamp from the CFL board of governors, punt returners will have more ability to drastically alter field position this coming season.

"You have to make a deliberate effort to get out of the five-yard radius (around the ball)," said Edmonton Eskimo head coach Danny Maciocia, "And if everybody does so, then chances are a pretty good returner is going to be able to pick up the ball and make something happen."

Before this week's CFL Congress, Maciocia lobbied for this type of rule change to help dynamic returners like the Green and Gold's Tony Tompkins.

Besides being granted that wish at yesterday's session of league meetings in Toronto, the rules committee also agreed with Maciocia and didn't implement a new penalty for deliberately punting the ball out of bounds.

Some fans had been calling on the league to adopt such a new penalty to constantly force the ball into the hands of explosive returners.

"The consensus (in yesterday's rule meeting) was that the kicking part of our game is a fundamental part and it differentiates our game from others," said Alexis Redmond, the CFL's spokesman.

Besides the change to the no-yards penalty, the board of governors will likely approve two more rule changes: a slight alteration of the facemask penalty and allowing a head coach to call a timeout from the bench.

"This just makes it a little easier and you don't have to go through a player to get a time out," added Maciocia.

But the future of instant replay is still unclear. League coaches and executives will gather for an extra meeting this morning to discuss the logistics of that possible rule change.


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