Changes Coming On Helmet-To-Helmet Hit Rules?


When NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held his annual State of the NFL press conference Friday afternoon in Phoenix, he discussed during his opening comments the possibility of expanding the use of instant replay during games.

Goodell acknowledged that the league may consider adding penalties to the list of reviewable plays, which is a move that the Ravens would likely support.

"We are looking at other ways to enhance replay and officiating," Goodell said. "That includes potentially expanding replay to penalties if it can be done without more disruption to the pace of the game."

*Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh has advocated in the past for the expanded use of instant replay, and he voiced that again during his end-of-season press conference last month. *

"I think the replay thing is something that we've been in favor of for three years now, of reviewing helmet-to-helmet-type hits on defenseless players," Harbaugh said. "That has a chance to go to review. I think more than that even has a chance to be included in review; we're for that."

NFL rules currently do not allow officials to use instant replay to change penalty calls. Coaches are also not allowed to challenge penalties to get them overturned. The movement to increase the reviewable plays has gained momentum in recent years, as coaches like Harbaugh and Patriots' Bill Belichick have been outspoken about making penalties reviewable.

Harbaugh is in favor of getting the helmet-to-helmet hit penalties reviewable, as those 15-yard fouls can sway a game and the margin for error is extremely thin for defensive players to avoid a blow to the head. Allowing officials time to review those significant penalties would give them the luxury of slowing down the play and viewing multiple camera angles to determine if a flag should have been thrown.

"We voted for that last year," Harbaugh said.

The rules changes will likely be a key topic when NFL owners convene for their annual spring meetings next month. Harbaugh also indicated that he thought the league needed to evaluate the pass interference rules, which were a point of emphasis last season.

Any proposed rules changes would have to be approved by the owners at the league meetings.  

"Those types of things that we've talked about with the competition sub-committee will all get looked at, and I'm sure there will be some changes," Harbaugh said.

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