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NFL storylines for 2016

With the Super Bowl in the books, here are some NFL issues and changes to look for in 2016:

Domestic violence

The year's first high-profile domestic violence charge. Colleen Crowley said Cleveland Browns quarterback Johnny Manziel hit her so hard she became deaf in her left ear, according to an application for a protective order filed last week. The affidavit, published Monday by the Dallas Morning News, also asserts that Manziel forced Crowley, his ex-girlfriend, into his car and told her he'd kill them both. The case remains under investigation. So far, Manziel remains on the Browns' roster, although that is expected to change. Last year, eight NFL players were arrested on suspicion of committing violence against women, an increase from five in 2014. Half of those athletes still play in the league.

Comeback pattern

Football will be back in Los Angeles for the first time since the 1994 season when the Rams return to play at the Coliseum, their temporary home until their new Inglewood stadium opens in 2019.

It also will be the first time in 35 years that L.A. will be a one-team NFL town, as the Raiders joined the Rams in Southern California in 1982. (Then again, the Rams played in what is now Angel Stadium from 1980-94.)

They're unmoved

While the Rams are rebuilding their fan base in L.A., the San Diego Chargers and Oakland Raiders are staying put for the time being. The Chargers have agreed to a deal in principle to be a tenant in the Inglewood stadium, but say they want to make one final run at a stadium deal to stay in San Diego. Their L.A. option expires in a year, but they have the option to extend it for a second year if they're on the way to getting something done where they are.

If the Chargers opt not to make the move, their one-year L.A. option rolls over to the Raiders. The Raiders have yet to extend their lease with the Alameda County Coliseum Authority, but that probably won't be a problem. The most likely scenario has them staying at least one more year, watching what the Chargers decide to do.

Concussions

This will continue to be a front-and-center issue for the league, which saw the incidence of concussions rise by 58 percent during the 2015 regular season. A lot of that could be because of more comprehensive and accurate monitoring of players, and more self-reporting.

During the next two months, the league will focus on looking at game tape to understand where the especially dangerous plays happen, how they happen, and whether there are patterns to their occurrence. The league needs those answers before it considers additional rules changes.

Two strikes

Commissioner Roger Goodell is in favor of a two-strike system in which players will be ejected if they have two personal fouls in a game, especially in the wake of embarrassing episodes such as New York Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr.'s obviously looking to cheap-shot Carolina cornerback Josh Norman.

College football has that rule — two unsportsmanlike calls and you're out. Something the NFL needs to determine is, what constitutes a personal foul for these purposes? Is it unnecessary roughness? Is it taunting? Because if all personal fouls fall under the ejectable standard, the Broncos would have had to play the second half of the Super Bowl without Aqib Talib.

Moving pictures

As it stands, players on the sidelines can't study video footage from games in which they're playing, only stills. That's going to change, possibly as soon as next season. Players will be able to use their Surface tablets as tools to study what the opponent is doing in near-real time. The league experimented with that in the 2015 exhibition season, and it worked well.

A catch?

What is a catch, and what isn't? The league has yet to successfully put this issue to rest. In recent weeks, the league has met with two groups — former receivers and former coaches — in an effort to assess the catch/no-catch rule, and those findings will be presented to the league's competition committee this month.

The goal, not surprisingly, is greater consistency in the calls.

Contributing: Los Angeles Times, Washington Post

NFL storylines for 2016 02/09/16 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 9, 2016 8:09pm]
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