NFL owners consider rules changes

NEW YORK (AP) - NFL owners will consider proposals next week to cut regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10; eliminate players leaping over the line on kick plays; and expansion of coaches' challenges and what can be reviewed by officials.

In what promises to be a busy annual meeting next week in Phoenix that will include discussing the Raiders' potential relocation from Oakland to Las Vegas, the 32 owners also will vote on changing the mechanics on replay reviews and other items intended to reduce downtime during games.

The Eagles proposed four rules changes, including abolishing the leaping techniques that league football operations director Troy Vincent said Thursday "don't belong in the game."

Seattle and Buffalo co-authored a proposal allowing a coach to challenge any officiating decision, whether a foul is called or not.

"That is a significant change to our current replay rule and it is something that will be on the floor and will be debated next week," NFL officiating chief Dean Blandino said.

Another major change would be the reduction of overtime in-season; the extra period in the playoffs would remain at 15 minutes. The powerful competition committee, of which Vincent and Blandino are members, believed it's a player safety issue, noting that number of snaps for games going to OT - especially deep into the overtime - is excessive. Especially if a team has a quick turnaround.

"We don't know where a team is going to be playing the next week, it could be four days later," said committee chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons. "We felt we should put an end to it. We don't think it will lead to more ties. Could it? It could, but we are not concerned with that."

As for changing the format of overtime to ensure both teams always get a possession - a popular topic after how the Super Bowl ended - Blandino said the league's wants to keep the element of sudden death in the extra period.

The "leaper rule" has taken some priority among competition committee members, the players' union and coaches. Vincent said coaches have begun scheming how to defense it, which can "create a real safety issue."

"It is really in the best interest of the game" to outlaw leaping on kicks," Vincent added.

McKay noted that the NCAA is in the process of passing a similar ban on the technique.

During the meetings that run from Sunday to Wednesday, the teams will be shown plays the competition committee believes should result in suspensions or ejections. Game officials already have had the leeway to eject players, but it rarely has happened; there were three in 2016.

"They don't happen very often, let's give the players credit," McKay said. "We have 40,000 plays in a year. We'll show a tape that will have four or five plays that would warrant suspension. This is not a widespread situation."

Added Vincent, a former NFL defensive back: "When you see the plays, they are catastrophic. We had two players who did not return for the season. They are high-impact plays that belong out of the game. It will be a real point of emphasis this season."

Also proposed:

-As Commissioner Roger Goodell outlined Wednesday, owners will consider having all replay decisions made by the officiating staff at league headquarters in New York, in consultation with the game's referee. The ref would no longer go "under the hood" to view replay, instead being provided a Microsoft tablet on the sideline to look at the play. It will take at least 24 yes votes to pass.

"We feel since we've gone to a centralized model, we are getting more and more consistency, and we think this system advances that, with the idea the referee is involved in the decision," McKay said.

-Definitions of a defenseless player will be extended to a receiver running a route, whether he is looking back for the ball or not, if he is hit in the neck or head area. That will be true even within the legal 5-yard chuck zone at the line of scrimmage.

-A 40-second play clock will be in use for extra points if TV coverage has not gone to a break. Halftime length will become more standardized at 13 minutes, 30 seconds from the end of the first half to the kickoff for the second half.

-Referees will be allowed to make replay announcements during TV breaks and not wait for the network to return to its coverage, something Blandino said will "improve in-game experience and reduce some of the overall replay delays.


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