Potential Replay and Rule Changes Will Be Considered at NFL Meetings

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Two months after a controversial missed call marred the NFC championship game, calls for the NFL to expand replay continue.

Replay review will be a hot topic at this week’s NFL Annual League Meetings (March 24-27) in Phoenix. Ravens Head Coach John Harbaugh is attending the meetings, and he is in favor of expanding replay. 

Harbaugh has long been a proponent of using more tools to help officials make the proper call. League-wide discussion about expanding replay has intensified, after officials missed an obvious pass interference penalty against the Los Angeles Rams late in the fourth quarter of the NFC championship game against the New Orleans Saints. The Rams ultimately won the game and reached the Super Bowl, much to the frustration of the Saints, their fans, and many others.

Harbaugh has suggested adding an official in a booth upstairs, who would have the power to weigh-in on certain calls after studying the replay.

“We got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do,” Harbaugh said in January. “So these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it’s not just one play in a championship game, it happens every single week okay, because the job is so tough, it moves so fast and the angles aren’t great.

“If we can put somebody up there in the box that’s got a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, let’s do that. Because at the end of the game, it’s about the credibility of the sport.”

However, there is reluctance among some league officials to review non-calls to that degree. For any new rule to be implemented next season, at least 24 of the league’s 32 owners must vote in favor of the change. Any rule changes approved will be implemented for one year and then reviewed after the season.

There is no guarantee that any rule changes will come out of the Phoenix meetings. But here are some potential changes being discussed:

-Allowing pass interference, roughing the passer, and defenseless player fouls to be reviewable. If approved, a coach would be able to challenge those called infractions by throwing his red flag. Replay officials would take over the review responsibility during the final two minutes.

-Giving teams the option not to kick off after scoring in the fourth quarter. Instead of choosing an onside kick, teams could attempt to run one offensive play from their own 35-yard line. If that play goes for 15 yards or more, the team would maintain possession. If not, the opposing team would take over on downs. According to New York Giants owner John Mara, this potential rule change has the support of the Competition Committee. Mara said he was the only member of the committee who wasn’t in favor of making the change.

-Eliminating the blindside block. Data has shown that allowing blindside blocks increases the potential for players to suffer concussions.

  • The Kansas City Chiefs have proposed giving each team a chance to possess the ball at least once during overtime. Under current rules, each team possesses the ball at least once, unless the receiving team scores a touchdown on its opening drive of overtime. The New England Patriots defeated the Chiefs in the AFC championship game in overtime with a game-ending touchdown drive on their first possession.

In addition to the rules discussions, there will be a coaches’ roundtable press conference Tuesday at 11:15 a.m. ET where Harbaugh and other coaches will be available to the media.

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