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NFL rules changes to be proposed

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is shown before Super

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell is shown before Super Bowl XLVIII between the Denver Broncos and the Seattle Seahawks at MetLife Stadium on Feb. 2, 2014. Credit: Getty Images / Christian Petersen

NFL owners will mull a series of rules proposals when they meet next week in Orlando, including a potentially significant tweak to the replay review system, longer extra-point tries, and moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line.

One proposal that will most likely not be made is expanding the current playoff field from 12 teams to 14. While the league’s competition committee supports two more wild card teams in the playoffs (one from each conference), it has not recommended that a permanent change be put up for a vote.

The replay review system proposal would allow communication between the referee and the league office in New York to discuss replay. Currently, the referee decides the outcome of a review by observing replays on a monitor. If owners approve the change, director of officiating Dean Blandino could contact the referee to discuss the review and offer his assistance and opinion on a given play. The idea is to establish consistency from game-to-game by having a centralized communication system where referees can communicate with the New York office.

The Patriots submitted several rules proposals, including having all PAT kicks moved from the 2-yard line to the 25. With only five missed extra points last year, the PAT kick has become virtually automatic, so a greater challenge would be presented to kickers and teams if the PAT kick were moved back. For a two-point conversion, the ball would continue to be placed at the 2-yard line.

With 24 owners needing to approve any rules change, it’s expected that the Patriots’ proposal would not pass. If that is the case, the league will have one preseason weekend this year where PAT tries would be placed at the 20.

The Patriots have also proposed that the height of the goalposts be raised by five feet, so that officials can better determine whether a field goal try that goes directly over the goal post is good or not. That the Patriots proposed the change isn’t a surprise; head coach Bill Belichick argued about a field goal that went over the right upright in a 31-30 loss to the Ravens early in the 2012 season. With replacement officials calling the game, the Ravens’ 27-yard field goal gave Baltimore a 31-30 win. Belichick was so incensed that he grabbed an official’s shirt to ask for an explanation as the teams ran off the field after the game ended.

One rules proposal that is expected to pass involves a fumble recovery similar to the one made by 49ers linebacker NaVorro Bowman against the Seahawks in last year’s NFC Championship Game. Bowman clearly recovered Jermaine Kearse’s fumble while falling to the ground, but an ensuing collision knocked the ball loose. Seahawks running back Marshawn Lynch recovered, but the play was not reviewable because it wasn’t in the end zone or on a boundary line. Under the current proposal, such a play would be reviewable.

Some other rules proposals: 

* The Redskins have proposed that kickoffs be moved from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line. Not sure where that one goes, since there are already more touchbacks than returns since the league moved kickoffs from the 30 to the 35. 

* There won't be a specific proposal to limit the use of the "N" word by players, but officials already have discretion to assess unsportsmanlike penalties for abusive language. The competition is concerned about an increase in taunting penalties, which went from 9 in 2012 to 34 in 2013. 

* The Redskins have also proposed that there be no overtime in preseason games. Amen to that! 

* The competition committee will propose that the clock should run after all sacks. 

* The Patriots have suggested that a camera be placed on all six boundary lines (goal lines, sidelines and end lines) to better assist replay reviews).

* The Redskins have proposed the game-day rosters be increased from 46 to 49 when teams play on Thursdays or Saturdays (excluding week 1). We like that idea, especially because it gives teams added roster flexibility on games where quick turnarounds are required.

* The Colts proposed that teams be able to close their stadium roof (if they have one) at halftime of a game. 

 

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