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Centralized instant replay among NFL rule changes adopted by owners

NFL referee Walt Coleman, center, enters the instant

NFL referee Walt Coleman, center, enters the instant replay booth to review a play in Pittsburgh on Oct. 20, 2014. From now on, the refs will wait for replay rulings from the league office in Manhattan. Credit: AP / Gene Puskar

PHOENIX — It’s official: Instant replay reviews in all NFL games now will be made in the league’s New York office, not on the field.

NFL owners voted Tuesday to adopt a centralized replay review system, in part to speed up the length of reviews, but also to have more consistency in rulings.

NFL director of officiating Dean Blandino will make the final calls on replay reviews from his perch in the league’s officiating center on Park Avenue. Blandino will get input from referees during reviews, but he will communicate his decision after reviewing any call that has been challenged by a head coach.

The owners adopted several other rules Tuesday, voted down some others and tabled another.

n Defensive players now are prohibited from leaping over offensive linemen during field-goal and point-after tries. The Eagles proposed the rule, which is designed to protect the leaper, who often is put in a vulnerable position because he is so high in the air when trying to vault the linemen. The leap hasn’t happened often — of the 41 blocked field-goal and point-after attempts last season, three came from players leaping over the line.

n Players are now subject to automatic ejections for gratuitous hits to the head. The new rule comes a year after owners adopted a measure to automatically eject players who are flagged for two unsportsmanlike penalties in the same game. The automatic ejection rule was approved Tuesday on a permanent basis.

n Owners tabled a proposal to reduce overtime in preseason and regular-season games from 15 minutes to 10 minutes. The league will revisit the proposal at its May meetings.

n Owners voted down a proposal to place the ball at the 20-yard line if a kicker drives the ball through the uprights on a kickoff. The ball will thus continue to be placed at the 25-yard line for all touchbacks, as owners approved the placement on a one-year basis for the second year in a row.

n Receivers running pass routes anywhere on the field will now be protected by the defenseless player protection rule, which stipulates that defenders cannot hit receivers unnecessarily in the head or neck area.

n Unsportsmanlike penalties will be assessed to players who commit multiple fouls on a single play in an effort to manipulate the game clock.

New York Sports