PHOENIX – One day after approving the Oakland Raiders’ move to Las Vegas, NFL owners got busy passing several rules changes and adopting resolutions they believe will speed the game and enhance player safety.
Most notable Tuesday was the change in handling officiating of video replays. Referees will now watch replays on the field using tablets, eliminating “going under the hood” to the watch on television monitors.
League officiating chief Dean Blandino and his staff in New York will make the final decisions on those calls, with input from the referee, who in the past was the ultimate arbiter after consulting with league headquarters.
“And I think that’s important to remember, we’re not taking the referee out of the equation,” Blandino has said. “The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say.”
Also at the league meetings owners extended bringing touchbacks out to the 25-yard line for another year; eliminating “leapers” trying to block field goals or extra points; added protections for defenseless receivers running their routes; and made permanent the rule disqualifying a player who is penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.
Other actions taken Tuesday included:
–Crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion are now banned.
–Creating an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for committing multiple fouls during the same down with the purpose of manipulating the game clock.
–Allowing teams to interview or hire an employee of another team during the season if the other team consents.
–Modified some bylaws regarding bringing draft-eligible players to clubs’ facilities; changed procedures for returning a player to the active ranks from lists such as physically unable to perform, non-football injury or non-football illness.
The leaper rule clearly falls under the category of enhancing player safety, competition committee chairman Rich McKay said last week.
“I would say it’s going to go as far as it needs to from a player safety standpoint,” said McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. “We’re not going to put players in a position in which we think there is an unreasonable risk of injury.
“When we met with the NFLPA it was a rule that certainly caught their attention and they favored it right from the outset given what they felt like was a danger to the player, to the leaper and the risk of injury.”
Owners also were considering whether to allow players and coaches to use the Microsoft Surface tablets for video on the sidelines — they are limited to still photos now; eliminating the summer cutdown to 75 players, making for one cut at the end of the preseason; allowing unlimited coaches’ challenges and expanding what calls can be challenged; and reducing the length of overtime games from 15 minutes to 10 during the regular season.