NFL owners, GM's and Coaches wrapped up four days of meetings at the Biltmore Resort in Phoenix on Wednesday. Aside from spending time in nice weather, owners approved a couple of rule changes and gave a vote of confidence in the Pro Bowl. The rule change that generated the most debate was the new penalty that can be called against any ballcarrier that initiates contact with the crown of his helmet. If it happens outside the tackle box and at least three yards downfield, the infraction will cost 15 yards from the spot of the foul. So if there's a 40 yard run when a defender gets "crowned", the penalty won't be walked off from the original line of scrimmage. It's the latest in the line of player safety rule changes that began with penalties for hitting defenseless players and more recently with the "launching" rules on defensive hits. The Packers, with President Mark Murphy on the competition committee, voted in favor of the new rule which passed 31-1. Coaches who illegally challenged non-reviewable plays in the past were hit with a flag and loss of timeout. Remember it cost Lions coach Jim Schwartz a ballgame and who can forget Jordy Nelson racing to pick up a Mike McCarthy challenge flag while Aaron Rodgers was hopping mad. The league now says those types of challenges can still be reviewed. The tuck rule is history. Charles Woodson thought for sure his hit on Tom Brady in the 2001 playoffs in snowy Foxboro would give the Raiders the victory, until the goofy tuck rule came in to play. If a quarterback starts a throwing motion, and recoils, even if he loses control of the ball, it was a "tuck" and deemed incomplete. Now if a quarterback loses the handle, it's as it should be, a fumble. Commissioner Roger Goodell also announced this week the Pro Bowl will return to Hawaii, the week before the Super Bowl. He thought the players put forth a more conscientious effort to play the game last January after a couple of years of embarrassing walk-throughs.
On some more Packers specific notes: Murphy said the Packers have every intention of locking up Rodgers with a long term, lucrative contract that could make him the highest paid player in the league. Did you see Wednesday's edition of the Green Bay Press Gazette or Milwaukee Journal Sentinel? Former Packer Greg Jennings took out a full page ad expressing his thanks to fans for his time in Green Bay. At Wednesday's NFC Coaches breakfast, McCarthy said he's planning to tweak the training camp practice schedule with fewer night workouts, he'll give DuJuan Harris every opportunity to become the full time running back and he will think about signing another kicker to compete with Mason Crosby after his agonizing slump through the middle of last season. The Packers off-season training program begins April 15.
Finally, from the NFC North, the heart and soul of the Chicago Bears for the past 13 years is moving on. Brian Urlacher and the Bears could not come to terms on a contract for 2013 and the 8 time Pro Bowl was cut loose to become a free agent. While nowhere near the player he was even a few years ago, Urlacher was to the Bears what Charles Woodson or Reggie White were to the Packers during their two most recent Super Bowl runs. GM Phil Emery offered Urlacher a one year contract worth two million dollars, a deal Urlacher called, "a slap in the face."