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Owners Meetings ’14: Changes on the agenda

Posted Mar 24, 2014

Moving extra points, allowing referees to consult with league office on replays among agenda items at 2014 NFL Annual Meetings.


ORLANDO – Move over, free agency. Step aside, draft talk. At least for a few days, anyway.

For the first few days of the week, at least, free agency and pre-draft Pro Days will be overshadowed by the NFL’s 2014 Annual Meetings, which means a lot of front-office talk and perhaps a few rules changes.

NFL owners, head coaches, general managers and other front-office personnel are meeting this week at the Ritz-Carlton in Orlando, with several significant rules changes on the agenda.

They include:

*Moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line.

*Expanding instant replay to include personal foul penalties.

*Eliminating overtime periods in preseason games.

*Extending the goal post five feet above the cross bar.

*Moving the line of scrimmage for extra points to the defensive team’s 25-yard line.

*Placing fixed cameras on all boundary lines – the sideline, end line, and end zone – to supplement television cameras.

*Permitting a coach to challenge any official’s decision, except scoring plays.

The first three proposals were made by Washington, with the others by New England. Under New England’s proposal, two-point conversions would remain at the opponent’s two-yard line.

“It’s clearly been debated,” Atlanta Falcons President and Chief Executive Officer and Competition Committee Co-Chairman Rich McKay said of moving one-point extra-point attempts.

“There is that thought that with the extra point you need to add a little more skill in to it. One of the ways to do it would be just the way New England proposed, which is move it back and add more skill to it. You’d probably drop the success rate down to 90 percent as opposed to 99.6 percent this year.”

St. Louis Rams Head Coach and Competition Committee Co-Chairman Jeff Fisher said the committee plans to recommend a one-game preseason experiment regarding the extra point. In that experiment, teams would kick extra points from the 20-yard line. McKay said proposals such as moving the extra point back often take time to implement and that most ideas he has heard involve a two-point conversion continuing to start from the two-yard line.

“You are not trying to take away that aspect of the game,” he said. “You are trying to leave that aspect of the game the same.”

Another high-profile potential change is a rule that would allow the referee to consult with the NFL officiating department during replay reviews.

“One of the things we are trying to achieve is consistency and efficiency,” McKay said. “You will have three-way communication between the replay official that is in the stadium, New York central command, and wireless headset communication to the referee. We are hoping that helps speed up the process for purposes of the referee and looking at the appropriate shot in replay. It is tied to replay.”

Another proposal would reorganize the NFL’s list of reviewable plays, and expand it to include recovery of a loose ball in the field of play. Another would be to no longer stop the clock on a sack at any time in the game, with another modifying the pass-interference rule to eliminate the “one-yard boundary” that prevents pass interference from being called if the receiver is not a yard beyond the line of scrimmage.

The NFL’s Competition Committee will present the above items to the owners’ Monday.

The Redskins are also proposing bylaws changes to raise the number of active-list players from 46 to 49 for regular-season games played on days other than Sunday or Monday, and the Redskins are also proposing raising the practice squad limit from eight to 10 players.

The Redskins are also proposing that any player on injured reserve could return after six weeks on IR. This would expand a rule instituted two years ago allowing a team to place one player on IR in such capacity.

Fisher said eliminating and punishing racial slurs will be addressed as a point of emphasis, adding that there are already rules in place that deal with sportsmanship.

“We have the current rule – unsportsmanlike conduct – Rule 12, Section 3,” Fisher said. “It states that, ‘Using abusive, threatening or insulting language, or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the league is unsportsmanlike conduct.’ The N-word would fall under that category.

“The officials will be empowered to call a foul if there are racial slurs or statements regarding another player’s sexual orientation, or even bating and insulting with verbal abuse. It falls under that. It is going to be a very significant point of emphasis.”

The meetings are scheduled to conclude Wednesday, with the owners’ final vote on rules changes scheduled to be held that morning.

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