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NFL owners agree to give competition committee authority to change pass interference reviews

Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay speaks

Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay speaks to the media during the NFL owners meeting on Wednesday in Key Biscayne, Fla. Credit: AP/Brynn Anderson

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. – NFL owners have authorized the competition committee to revise the newly approved rule that includes pass interference calls and no-calls as part of the instant replay system.

In March, the owners approved a proposal allowing coaches to ask for a replay review of an interference call/no-call, but that all calls inside the final two minutes of each half and through overtime would be initiated by the replay judge as a booth review. Because of coaches’ concerns that the booth reviews might result in several plays being subject to review and disrupting the flow of games, the competition committee asked for the authority to amend the rule and allow coaches' challenges only for disputed interference plays.

“It became apparent that there would be too many stoppages in the last two minutes,” competition committee chairman Rich McKay said Wednesday at the spring owners' meetings.

One important exception to the pass interference rule would be the “Hail Mary” pass near the end of the half or at the end of regulation. The official’s call on such a play would not be subject to review.

“On that play, officiating-wise, the philosophy has been survival of the fittest,” McKay, the Falcons president and chief executive officer, said Tuesday. “Everybody jumps, everybody’s shoving, everybody’s trying to get the ball, knock it down or catch it. We tell the officials, ‘If anybody gets pulled down or dragged down, that’s pass interference.’ Otherwise, it’s a different play from any other play that we have, because there are multiple receivers and multiple defensive players in a common area.”

McKay said the committee will brief coaches on the revised rule, including the “Hail Mary” exception, during video presentations in early June. Final language on what constitutes a “Hail Mary” pass will be adopted and included in the reworked rule.

Owners will not change the overtime format in the regular season or the playoffs. The Chiefs withdrew a proposal they submitted that would allow each team a possession in OT. The competition committee asked them to submit it next year for further discussion. If a team scores a touchdown on its first possession of overtime, the game is over. If the team possessing the ball first kicks a field goal or doesn’t score, the other team gets the ball. If the score remains tied after that possession, the game is decided by sudden death.

The Chiefs lost the AFC Championship Game after New England scored a touchdown on its first possession of overtime.

“There is an appetite to potentially explore some fashion of overtime tweaking in postseason play,” NFL director of operations Troy Vincent said.

“Kansas City has tabled their proposal and they’ll bring it back next year,” McKay said. “I think [commissioner Roger Goodell] is intending that we should talk about different variations of overtime in the postseason as the year progresses, share them with the clubs and see what they think.”

Vincent and McKay briefed the owners about certain practice drills that will be eliminated. “The Oklahoma Drill,” or similar drills that have players collide head-on, no longer will be allowed in an effort to reduce concussions.

“That data tells us you have to do something,” said Vincent, referring to the incidence of concussions during training camp. “It’s necessary based off what we saw in those first 15 days of training camp, particularly when you get into the contact period.”

Owners also were briefed on the introduction of a committee that includes NFL and NFL Players Association medical personnel. The committee will explore how to better handle pain management issues and psychological challenges faced by players. The league and players union also will discuss whether to allow medical marijuana as a pain management alternative, although no change in the league’s guidelines is expected until the NFL and NFLPA agree on a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires after the 2020 season.

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