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Ravens' 'Sky Judge' Joint Proposal Approved by Competition Committee


The frustration over last year's one-year rule that allowed replay review of pass interference could be resolved thanks, in part, to the Ravens.

The NFL's Competition Committee has recommended a joint proposal from the Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers that would add a "booth umpire" – or sky judge as some have called it – as an eighth game official to the officiating crew.

The Ravens and Chargers also proposed the addition of a Senior Technology Advisor to the Referee to assist the officiating crew.

The proposals will be voted on by all 32 owners on May 28 in another virtual meeting.

Head Coach John Harbaugh has been a major proponent of adding the booth umpire. A year ago at the Combine, when a solution for the missed obvious defensive pass interference in the Rams-Saints NFC Championship game was still being hotly debated, Harbaugh said this:

"I know as a coach, what's the worst spot to watch the game from? Sideline," Harbaugh said. "You see the least amount from the sideline. That's why you put coaches in the box. So we've got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.

"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, because the job is so tough and moves so fast and the angles aren't great. If we can put somebody up there in the box that has a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, do that."

Here are the two rule changes proposed by the Competition Committee:

  • To amend Rule 12, Section 2, Article 9, to expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off the impending contact of an opponent.
  • To amend Rule 4, Section 3, Article 2, to prevent teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.

Here are the other club-proposed rule changes:

  • By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 15, Section 2, to make permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt.
  • By Philadelphia; to amend Rule 6, Section 1, Article 1, to provide an alternative to the onside kick that would allow a team who is trailing in the game an opportunity to maintain possession of the ball after scoring (4th and 15 from the kicking team's 25-yard line).
  • By Miami; to amend Rule 4, Section 3, Article 2, to provide the option to the defense for the game clock to start on the referee's signal if the defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs late in either half.

The Eagles' proposal on onside kicks is a particularly interesting one, and it's reportedly gaining momentum. It has also already been reportedly tweaked to remove the language that only teams trailing would be allowed to do it.

Harbaugh and the Ravens were the most aggressive team in the NFL last year when it came to going for it on fourth down, and it would be interesting to see what the analytics would say about taking your chances on retaining possession with a fourth-and-15 opportunity.

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