The NFL’s competition committee has decided against making further tweaks to the new rule that makes pass interference reviewable by instant replay.
The committee’s decision, communicated to teams in a memo distributed Thursday by the NFL’s football operations department, leaves the rule essentially as it was when it was approved by owners in March in Phoenix at the annual league meeting. Coaches can challenge interference, either called or not called by the officials on the field, in the first 28 minutes of each half. The replay official in the booth decides in the final two minutes of each half whether to initiate an instant replay review of an interference call or non-call.
Teams were given until next Wednesday to offer feedback before the committee’s latest recommendation becomes official.
The competition committee had considered taking the replay official out of the equation entirely, making replay-for-interference decisions fall under the coaches’ challenge system for the entire game. The concern was that putting such decisions in the replay assistant’s hands in the final two minutes of a half would result in many stoppages of play, given that the replay assistant is not tasked with differentiating between plays that are crucial to a game’s outcome and those that aren’t.
At last month’s owners’ meeting in Florida, owners authorized the competition committee to modify the new rule in that way if it wanted to do so. But after the committee consulted further with coaches and owners in recent weeks, it opted against the change. Coaches were said to be opposed to having the responsibility for initiating interference-related replay reviews in the final two minutes of a half.
The league’s memo to teams said the replay official will use “stricter” than normal guidelines for stopping the game to initiate a replay review for an interference call or non-call.
“The rationale for the stricter criteria is to prevent excessive game clock stoppages for a foul that involves a greater degree of subjectivity than other reviewable plays,” the memo said. “Accordingly, the Replay Official will stop the game when there is clear and obvious visual evidence that a pass interference foul may or may not have occurred, based on viewing the play live or any initial available line feed views.”
The memo said that Hail Mary plays will be subject to potential replay review for pass interference. The competition committee had considered exempting Hail Mary passes from the rule.
The replay-for-interference measure was ratified by owners on a one-year basis and comes after a missed pass interference call late in regulation in the NFC championship game helped the Los Angeles Rams reach the Super Bowl rather than the New Orleans Saints.
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