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NFL reveals proposed rules changes

Posted Mar 21, 2012

SAN DIEGO – The NFL owners will consider 14 proposed rules and bylaw changes during their annual meeting March 26-28 in Palm Beach, Fla., the league announced Wednesday.

Competition Committee Chairman and Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay presented the proposals on a conference call. Owners are expected to vote the morning of March 28.

Chargers President Dean Spanos and the 31 other NFL owners will consider proposals on roster logistics, replay reviews and overtime rules, among other things.

Among the proposed changes:

• Extend the “opportunity to possess” postseason overtime rules, instituted in 2010, to the regular season.

The Coaches Sub-Committee expressed the opinion that teams do not want to face rules changes between the regular season and the playoffs. The NFL Players Association also endorsed the rule, advocating consistency.

• Institute an automatic replay official review on all “traditional turnovers” (interceptions and fumbles).

Expand the rule change instituted last season mandating replay reviews for all scoring plays. It prevents coaches from having to use challenges to request replay reviews. The replay official would instruct the referee to stop the game if more time is needed to review a turnover.

• Move the trade deadline from after Week 6 to after Week 8 of the regular season.

This rule is designed to give teams more roster flexibility and encourage trades.

• Institute a Reserve-Injured exception for a designated player, who would be allowed to return to the field during the season.

The rule is directed toward giving teams flexibility if marquee players get hurt in training camp or early in the season, stand a chance to play at some point, but often miss the rest of the season to preserve a roster spot for the team.

Teams cannot use the designation unless they keep the player on their roster through the end of Week 1. The player must stay on IR for at least six weeks before he can practice. The player can’t suit up for games for an additional two weeks.

The Competition Committee met for a total of 11 days at the Combine in Indianapolis and during a week in Naples, Fla.

The committee enlists feedback from fans, media, players, coaches, medical consultants and team officials.

The Coaches Sub-Committee includes San Diego Head Coach Norv Turner, Chairman John Madden, Baltimore’s John Harbaugh, Philadelphia’s Andy Reid and Pittsburgh’s Mike Tomlin.

McKay feels rules designed to further the definition of defenseless players, which created some divisive opinions among media members and players, have been accepted in part due to an active technique and safety education campaign by the NFL.

“There’s no question in our mind that players have adjusted to those rules that involve the defenseless player and have lowered the target, and hopefully we can keep making progress on that, but I don’t see us backing up on the standard at all,” McKay said.

The committee re-examined the so-called Calvin Johnson rule pertaining to the act of making a catch, but will not make changes. McKay estimated there were three instances in 2011 when a catch was ruled incomplete in an “extreme” but correct application of the rule, considered an insignificant number by the committee. McKay also said NFL back judges and referees are comfortable applying the rule and do not believe it is difficult to get correct.

One of the major rule changes in 2011, moving kickoffs up to the 35-yard line instead of the 30, was deemed a success.

“It achieved its objective,” McKay said, stressing the rule prioritized player safety over its impact on the game. “Kickoffs were down tremendously as far as percentage of returns. The average start line went down (about 1.5 yards).”

The occurrence of concussions on kickoffs fell as much as 40 percent, McKay said.

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