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NFL owners to vote on rules proposals

Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants

Odell Beckham #13 of the New York Giants mixes it up after a play in the first half against Josh Norman #24 of the Carolina Panthers at MetLife Stadium on Sunday, Dec. 20, 2015 in East Rutherford, New Jersey. Credit: Jim McIsaac

In the wake of a series of nasty confrontations between Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. and Panthers cornerback Josh Norman last Dec. 20, NFL owners will vote next week on a rules proposal that would result in automatic ejection if a player is penalized twice for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Despite their numerous run-ins, neither Beckham nor Norman was thrown out of the game at MetLife Stadium. In the third quarter, Beckham was so incensed that he launched himself at Norman helmet to helmet. Beckham, however, was suspended for the following game against the Vikings.

A referee is empowered to eject a player after one egregious foul if he believes it is rises to a high enough level. Beckham was penalized three times for unnecessary roughness, while Norman was flagged once. In the future, similar penalties likely would be called unsportsmanlike conduct.

Competition Committee chairman Rich McKay said ejections could occur for throwing a punch or forearm or kicking an opponent, even if no contact is made; using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to teammates, officials or league representatives; or using baiting or taunting acts or words that “engender ill will between teams.”

“We will emphasize that the referee is empowered to eject a player for one foul,” McKay said Thursday. “We will make that point to the officials.’’

The proposal comes six weeks after commissioner Roger Goodell suggested he wanted to see a rule leading to automatic ejections for unsportsmanlike conduct.

Competition Committee member Troy Vincent said unsportsmanlike conduct penalties were up significantly last season. There were 75 called, compared to an average of 50 the previous five seasons.

Several other rules change proposals have been recommended by the Competition Committee:

- Owners will vote on a measure to permanently keep the line of scrimmage for extra-point kicks at the 15. They approved a measure in 2015 to do that for one season. Defenses again would be awarded two points for returning a missed PAT to the end zone.

- Chop blocks will become illegal under a new proposal. Despite concerns that eliminating the chop block (blocking a defender below the waist) might reduce the effectiveness of the running game, McKay said college football’s elimination of it in 2008 did not reduce rushing yards.

- Coaches would be allowed to call plays onto the field from the sideline or the press box if another rules change is made. Currently, all plays must be sent in via headset from the sideline, to the quarterback or a designated player on defense. The modification is being suggested to allow coordinators more flexibility in where they are positioned.

- The Chiefs have proposed a rule that would prohibit the quarterback from falling, then getting up and throwing a pass, which Peyton Manning did last season.

- The Bills have proposed making all officiating calls, including penalties, subject to replay review. Owners voted down similar proposals in recent years.

- Minnesota and Washington have proposed a rule awarding a third replay challenge. Teams are allowed two per game.

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