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Saints’ Sean Payton cites tennis technology to help NFL determine what’s out of bounds

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton challenges

New Orleans Saints head coach Sean Payton challenges the officials in the first half of an NFL football game against the Detroit Lions in New Orleans, Sunday, Dec. 4, 2016. Credit: AP / Bill Feig

PHOENIX — Saints coach Sean Payton is a fan of the newly enacted safety measures in the NFL, particularly the rule that now prohibits players from leaping at the line of scrimmage in attempts to block field goals or point-after tries.

But he’d like to see the NFL do a better job of determining whether a ball is in or out of bounds.

“My beef isn’t the leap rule,” Payton said at an NFC coaches breakfast Wednesday morning. “You go to any tennis tournament in the world, we can tell if the ball was in or out. We ought to be able to tell if a foot is on the sideline or not in 2017.”

Payton laments the NFL’s recent decision not to add more cameras in stadiums to enhance replay, an idea initially brought up by the Patriots. The coach says tennis gets it right.

“We have the technology,” Payton said. “We all remember John McEnroe, we didn’t know if the ball was in or out. Then there’d be this moment like, ‘Here it comes.’ And it was fairly entertaining [to see McEnroe argue whether a ball was in or out]. We enjoyed that. So I don’t know if his shtick would work today, but the technology in tennis is pretty amazing. I’m not suggesting that same technology for football, but surely we can know when a player is in or out of bounds. We’re never going to know if he made a catch or not, but I’m talking about whether he’s in or out of bounds.”

Payton also is a fan of the league’s decision this week to go to a centralized replay system where officials in the NFL’s New York office will make replay rulings, not the on-field referees. But he does envision a potential problem.

“The potential for four serious [coaches replay] challenges taking place at the same time, and all of a sudden you have a traffic jam,” he said.

Overall, though, he thinks taking replay decisions away from the referees is helpful.

“I’m for reducing some of the things we ask the officials to do,” he said, “and I think you can get to an improved performance [from the on-field officials] when you can streamline it. I think it should go fine.”


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