NFL Owners Consider 13 Rules Changes, Expanding Playoffs
ORLANDO, Fla. — As further proof the NFL never is far from the headlines, owners could make plenty of news this week at their spring meetings.
They will consider 13 playing rules proposals and seven bylaws. They will discuss expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams, although a vote on such a move is uncertain.
Some changes would seem to be slam dunks: extending the height of the goal posts 5 feet to help determine if kicks are good; eliminating overtime in preseason games; placing fixed TV cameras on the goal lines, end lines and sidelines to help with replay reviews.
Others seem almost sidebars to the real action, such as from where to enforce defensive penalties when they occur behind the line of scrimmage, or extending pass interference calls to within a yard of the line.
Perhaps the juiciest suggestions came from the Patriots. They want to move the line of scrimmage to the 25 for extra points, and to allow coaches to challenge any calls except on scoring plays, which are automatically reviewed.
Passing those proposals would make for a major change in how NFL games are played.
“We discussed a lot of different scenarios that have been raised,” Rams coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the influential competition committee, said of longer extra-point kicks. “I will point out … last year we had five tries missed (out of 1,267). I think four were blocked, one was missed. It’s still a competitive play.
“We are going to propose … to the membership during one of the preseason weeks that we move the extra point back to the 20-yard line and see how that goes. It’s on our radar.”
New England’s idea on coaches’ challenges in some ways echoes college football, in which every play can be reviewed. Falcons President Rich McKay, the other co-chairman of the competition committee, said reviews or challenges on defensive pass interference calls have been considered before.
“We’ve always shied away, as a committee, from penalties and the review of penalties for the most basic reason,” McKay said. “We didn’t want to put the referee in the position of using his subjective judgment on a play in place of the on-field official. We always thought the intent of replay, when it was put back in in 1998, was to deal with plays where there was an objective standard.”
Washington has proposed making personal foul penalties reviewable.
How replay reviews are conducted overall will be discussed after the committee has proposed allowing the referee to consult with members of the NFL officiating department. The process won’t change, but the command center in New York headed by director of officiating Dean Blandino will already be reviewing the play when the referee gets to the replay monitor.
“At the end of the day, what’s going to happen is we’re going to make sure that every single review is correct and we feel like this will speed up the instant replay process and timing,” Fisher said.
The Redskins want kickoffs moved to the 40 yard-line for “safety and historic consistency,” although doing so might totally eliminate returns. But some coaches hint it could lead to more pooch kicks, which wouldn’t make the kickoff any safer.
Another suggestion is to eliminate stopping the clock on a sack. That no longer is done in the final two minutes of each half, and if passed it will be totally eliminated.
The Redskins also proposed raising the number of active players on game day from 46 to 49 for games on any day but Sunday or Monday — not including opening weekend. Washington seeks an increase in the practice squad limit from eight to 10 players; allowing trades after the Super Bowl until when the league year begins in March; eliminating the first preseason roster cut to 75 and having just one cut to 53 at the end of the preseason; and allowing more than one player to return from injured reserve during the season after six weeks on the list.
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