The NFL’s team owners will consider proposals at next week’s annual league meeting to tweak the sport’s instant replay system and make the extra point a longer kick.
It is not yet clear if the owners will vote next week on a measure to expand the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams beginning in the 2015 season. Members of the competition committee said in a conference call with reporters on Wednesday that the topic of expanded playoffs will be discussed next week. But the committee is not formally proposing playoff expansion at this point and it’s not known if a vote will be taken, they said.
Committee members also said the sport’s ban on the use of racial slurs by players during games will be implemented through a point of emphasis to game officials about enforcing existing rules covering unsportsmanlike conduct, rather than via a formal rule change.
The competition committee will propose to the owners that the replay system be changed to allow the referee to consult with the league office during a review.
The New England Patriots are proposing that the ball be moved back to the 25-yard line for the snap on an extra point (and put on the 2-yard line if a team wants to try for a two-point conversion). If that proposal by the Patriots is not approved, the competition committee plans to recommend that a longer extra point, with the snap from the 20-yard line, be used on an experimental basis for one weekend of preseason games, with no change for the 2014 regular season.
The owners are scheduled to meet next week in Orlando. Any proposed rule change would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 teams.
Update, 5:30 p.m.:
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell previously mentioned the possibility of the league office being involved to some extent in instant replay reviews and the league’s competition committee studied the issue in recent weeks. The committee stopped short of proposing that the league office handle all replay reviews on its own. But this proposal would enable the referee at the game site to be in contact with members of the NFL’s officiating department in New York during the replay review process.
The committee also had been looking at the possibility of attempting to add some intrigue to extra points instead of leaving them as a virtually automatic play. The Patriots’ proposal, if passed, would make the extra point a longer kick beginning in the 2014 regular season. If the owners don’t ratify that, the committee’s proposal would allow teams, NFL officials and fans to see what a longer extra point would look like during the preseason and the issue could be revisited in the future.
“We’ve discussed a lot of different scenarios,” St. Louis Rams Coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the competition committee, said during Wednesday’s conference call.
There is said to be strong and ever-growing support both on the competition committee and within the league for expanding the playoff field in the 2015 season. One person close to the situation said earlier this week it’s inevitable that it will happen even if a vote of the owners does not take place next week. The NFL would have seven teams in each conference, instead of the current six, qualify for the postseason. Only one team in each conference would receive a first-round playoff bye. There would be six first-round postseason games league-wide instead of the current four. There perhaps would be a Monday night game in the opening round of the playoffs and the sport could increase its television revenues that way.
Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the chairman of the competition committee, said during Wednesday’s conference call that the committee will address the issue during its report to the owners Monday. At this point, there’s no formal proposal for the owners to consider and, given that the measure is not to take effect in the 2014 season, there’s no pressing need for them to act. Even so, McKay did not rule out a vote being taken next week.
The competition committee plans to instruct game officials to closely monitor the use of racial slurs by players during games and impose 15-yard penalties when appropriate. The issue came to public notice last season after the Fritz Pollard Alliance, the diversity group that works closely with the league on hiring issues, accused Washington Redskins left tackle Trent Williams of directing a racial slur at an official during a game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Williams denied the allegation.
The Fritz Pollard Alliance called for the NFL to enact a ban on racial slurs. The NFL’s stance is that such a ban can be implemented without a rule change. A point of emphasis to the officials does not require approval of the owners.
Fisher said other forms of abusive language, including language related to sexual orientation, can be penalized.
“We have the current rule [for] unsportsmanlike conduct. … It’s going to be a significant point of emphasis,” Fisher said.
Update, 6:07 p.m.:
The Redskins made a series of proposals. They proposed moving the kickoff to the 40-yard line; expanding what can be reviewed under instant replay to include personal fouls; eliminating overtime in preseason games; allowing 49 players on active game-day rosters for Thursday and Saturday games instead of 46; increasing practice squads from eight to 10 players per team; allowing players to be traded before the new league year starts; having a single preseason roster cut-down instead of two; and amending the injured reserve rules so that any player could return from the IR list instead of one player per team being permitted to do so each season.
The Patriots, in addition to their extra-point proposal, proposed making the uprights higher; putting cameras on all boundary lines to aid replay; and allowing a coach to challenge any play via replay except scoring plays.
The competition committee is proposing to extend “roll-up” protection for players on blocks. The committee also is proposing to make the deadline for the final preseason cut-down two hours earlier, at 4 p.m. instead of 6. Other proposals including making fumble recoveries such as the one made by San Francisco’s NaVorro Bowman during the NFC title game reviewable by replay, and eliminating clock stoppages on sacks at all points of the game.
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