After a busy week here at home, the Patriots can expect another one on the road.
This year's springtime gathering of pro football's power brokers, more commonly known as the NFL Annual Meeting, will take place next week in Boca Raton, Florida. Though the meeting officially opens on Sunday evening, the real business doesn't commence until the next morning.
New England will be well-represented, as always – owner Robert Kraft, president Jonathan Kraft, and head coach Bill Belichick will all attend and take part – but there could be less focus on their club than in recent seasons.
The Patriots have been high-profile participants of late. At the past two meetings, Belichick has submitted several proposals to change the rulebook, with one of his ideas having taken hold on a trial basis last season: moving the extra point line of scrimmage further back to make the play more competitive and less automatic.
The league's Competition Committee will seek to make that change permanent with a vote this year, as well as making a missed kick attempt returnable by the defense.
However, there will be no official motions put forth by the Patriots. One of the ideas Belichick spearheaded the past two years was allowing coaches to challenge all plays and make them subject to replay review. That concept will still be debated at this year's meetings, although it's not New England submitting the proposals. The Buffalo Bills and Baltimore Ravens each have submitted proposals that are very similar.
Buffalo simply wants what the Patriots suggested: to permit coaches to challenge any official's decision on the field (save scoring plays and turnovers, which are already automatically reviewed). The Ravens are a bit vaguer, asking for three challenges per game (up from the current two) and expanding the number of plays that are subject to review.
Baltimore is also suggesting an odd rule change which suggest the Ravens are still smarting from their Divisional Round playoff loss here at Gillette Stadium in 2014. You'll recall that New England cleverly employed a series of formations that involved eligible receivers in ineligible positions and vice versa. Baltimore's defense was flummoxed by the move, even though the Patriots executed it legally and informed the officiating crew on the field at the time.
Well, the Ravens now want the NFL to require players that attempt this maneuver to enter the field of play wearing jersey vests (commonly known as pinnies) "matching the team uniform, with an appropriate number for his eligible or ineligible status that has not already been assigned to another teammate."
In essence, the Ravens don't want to get fooled again by a play that was perfectly legal and has been used numerous times by football teams at various levels (pro, college, youth). It will be interesting to see how many of the 31 other clubs agree with Baltimore.
Meanwhile, the Kraft family will be busy serving on the various other committees on which they sit. Robert Kraft remains on the five committees he's historically been on: Finance, Compensation, Broadcasting (which he chairs), NFL Network, and the Management Council Executive Committee. Jonathan Kraft also keeps his two seats on the Digital Media and Business Ventures Committees. He now chairs the Digital Media exclusively (he co-chaired last year).
At the Annual Meeting, the league normally hands out compensatory draft choices to eligible clubs, but that piece of business was handled last Friday, so, that's one less item on the agenda. However, we could still learn some news about the 2016 NFL Schedule. Discussions about prime time and kickoff weekend games often begin at these meetings, and New England could be a candidate to open the season on Thursday night against the defending Super Bowl champion Denver Broncos.
Of course, there could be other news items of interest specifically to the Patriots while the meetings are underway, and PFW will be on the ground in Boca Raton to cover the proceedings. Look for written and video updates Monday and Tuesday here on patriots.com.