The Rules… They Are A-Changin’!

In 1964 Bob Dylan released the anthem for change, “The Times They Are A-Changin’,” on an album of the same name.  Like the initial reaction to the new set of rule changes introduced in the CFL this off-season, it was not accepted right away.  Many of his colleagues panned the song and questioned what he was doing (in a much more colourful fashion).  When the song reached the people, it became an instant hit, climbing to ninth on the British charts by the end of 1964.  The Canadian Football League announced seven new rule changes this off-season, including some drastic alterations which take aim at opening up the flow of the game.

As expected, several players took to twitter to voice their opinions on the new rules, and more specifically, the newest pass interference modifications.  Matt Black, defensive secondary hero for the Toronto Argonauts, was vocal about ensuring the new contact rule was called both ways.

Since the announcement, players have grown to accept and even appreciate what the new rules are intended to accomplish.  When asked to speak about the new rules at training camp, Black flashed a big smile while rubbing his hands together in anticipation of the subject.

There’s going to be a lot of scoring.  It’s going to make it a little easier for the offence to score points.  It’s going to make it a little more exciting on special teams with the new rules there and there should be a lot of big returns.  So the fans should be pretty excited about that.

Curtis Steele, Toronto Argonauts backfield “Superman”, was also excited to see the new rules in action,

…very interesting like the people’s eyebrow about how would the new rules affect the CFL game but also bring more scoring to the league.


Contact between the receiver and defender can occur within five yards of the line of scrimmage.  Any type of contact that impedes or re-directs either player beyond the five yards will result in a pass interference penalty.

It’s a controversial updated rule, with many speculating bigger plays because of adjusted coverage and routes to account for the changes.  As for Black, the Argonauts’ veteran safety believes battles will have to be won along the line of scrimmage.  Defensive backs will be challenged especially when matching up against some of the most dynamic receivers in the league.  Black notes that the rule changes could lead to more zone coverage.

On the opposite side of the ball, Steele doesn’t think backs and receivers will change their approach much.  He sees more problems when receivers are trying to block downfield if defensive backs are playing off a little more than they did in the past.

In short, both players agree that no contact beyond five yards should lead to additional scoring.


The most noticeable of the six updated rules stems from the most automatic of plays…. the extra point.  Converted 99.4% of the time in 2014, the traditional five-yard, one-point convert attempt has been moved to the 25-yard line.  With the kicker located approximately seven yards off the line of scrimmage (on average), that results in a 32-yard extra point. Last season, CFL kickers connected on 81% of field goal attempts from 30+ yards.
In an effort to breathe even more life into the almost-sure-play, they also shifted the line of scrimmage for the two-point convert from the five-yard line to the three-yard line.

Curtis Steele can see many teams thinking twice about kicking, especially when you only have to go three yards for two points.  However, the Argos’ third-year tailback isn’t worried about his team having to make a decision,

We have the best in the league in Swayze Waters, so no issues with us!


Two changes are coming to the hurry-up offence.  For starters, we will see all measurement requests handled by the officials.  In the past, measurement requests have been used strategically by coaches to provide their teams with a quick breather and discuss tactical adjustments.

The second puts control of the pace into the offence’s hands.  Teams can inform the officials that they intend to utilize a quick-tempo offence.  Upon the spotting of the football, the officials will retreat to their positions and permit the offensive team to resume their drive.

The aforementioned Matt Black believes that conditioning will play a pivotal role for defences in 2015.

You’ve got to be in good shape.  It’s going to reward the defences who are in the best shape.

While Black concedes the up-tempo rules will stress defences, Steele is excited about more no-huddle opportunities.

We had a “hurry-up/no-huddle” package last year and I’m sure we will use a lot more of it this year with the new rule in the offence’s favour.


The bread and butter of the CFL’s marketing has been the wide-open return game. This season, a couple of procedural tweaks could result in more exciting plays on special teams.

On punts, the five interior linemen on the kicking team will be prohibited from releasing downfield until the ball has been kicked.

Steele, last year’s special teams’ captain, can envision returners seeing more running lanes than in the past.

The last change sees the five-yard, “No-Yards”, penalty applied automatically to the end of the return or from the point the ball was first touched by the return team, whichever is more beneficial.

Both Steele and Black seem excited to see how the new rule changes will affect the game. However, with change, there will be an adjustment period.  You only need to look as far as the Saskatchewan Roughriders-Edmonton Eskimos preseason game in Fort McMurray.  The two teams accumulated a grand total of 55 penalties.  It will take players some time to get used to the changes.  Fans will need to be patient.

The CFL hopes this is a step in the right direction, to bring more excitement to the league.  The times and the rules are definitely a-changin’.  If you believe Bob Dylan, change is inevitable and those who oppose change will eventually assimilate or give way.  The Rules They Are A-Changin’.

The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin’
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin’.

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