National Football League owners to vote on rules regarding player safety, pace of play

A serious rules change will be proposed and debated during the upcoming NFL League meeting.

One is co-sponsored by the Seahawks and the Bills - allowing challenges for every penalty.

"It is part of an initiative to really reduce downtime", National Football League senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino said on a conference call with media Thursday afternoon.

McKay said the group plans to shorten overtime from 15 to 10 minutes, but won't consider a college-style or guaranteed possession format. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround. "We have found that since we've gone to (a partially) centralized model, we feel like we're getting better consistency from call to call - what the expectation would be, and what would be reversed and what would not be reversed".

McKay said the league doesn't believe that shortening the length of overtime will lead to more ties, though he acknowledged it could.

The likeliest rules to pass are those proposed by the competition committee itself, which this year adds two members (Denver Broncos GM John Elway and Arizona Cardinals head coach Bruce Arians) to the returning eight of Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay, New York Giants co-owner John Mara, Dallas Cowboys executive Stephen Jones, Green Bay Packers president Mark Murphy, Baltimore Ravens GM Ozzie Newsome, Houston Texans GM Rick Smith, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis and Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue". "There are things, as we administer the game, we have to have some fine lines, and we just think clear examples are better, not just for our officials, but for our players and our coaches".

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McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016. "We're not looking to impact the play on the field - but to reduce the in-game downtime". We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension.

"When you see the plays, they're catastrophic", Vincent added. Last season saw some controversy over the officiating and penalties called (or not called) in a game between the two teams.

The way it stands, defenders are permitted to jump over their opponents on such plays so long as they do not land on another player or use their hands or arms to gain leverage. Instead of making the decision, he will consult with the NFL's main office in NY, which will make the final determination on whether to overturn the play. In other words, you'd no longer see referees go "under the hood" to watch a replay. At least 75% of owners (24 of 32) must approve any playing-rule or by-law change. "No", he said. "I think we're more concerned with player safety". That will be true even within the legal 5-yard chuck zone at the line of scrimmage.

The league will also introduce a 40-second clock after an extra point when there isn't a television break before the ensuing kickoff. Halftime length will become more standardized at 13 minutes, 30 seconds from the end of the first half to the kickoff for the second half.

Announcements: Referees will be allowed to make replay announcements during TV breaks and not wait for the network to return to its coverage, something Blandino said will "improve in-game experience and reduce some of the overall replay delays".

  • Regina Walsh