The NFL is prepared to eject and/or suspend players for certain types of illegal hits in 2017, but league officials said Thursday they expect it to happen rarely, if at all. No related rule changes are planned, easing fears that the league could move toward the NCAA’s “targeting” rule. NFL referees have long had the authority to eject players for what the rule book terms “flagrant” incidents of unnecessary roughness, but rarely have they used it. (“Flagrant” is defined in the NFL rule book as an action that is “extremely objectionable, conspicuous, unnecessary, avoidable or gratuitous.”) Flagrant hits more commonly have resulted in heavy fines.

NFL owners, general managers and coaches will gather next week in Phoenix for the annual league meetings. McKay said the committee will show a video containing “four or five” instances that could have resulted in ejections or suspensions last season. The committee’s hope is to curb the hits through a renewed threat of stiffer discipline without having to actually implement it. Executive vice president Troy Vincent said the plays on the video were “catastrophic” but numbered “very few” relative to the 40,000 or so plays that occur every season. “They’re high-impact plays,” Vincent said, “and they belong out of the game. When we see them, we are going to have to enforce it and it’s going to be a real point of emphasis forthcoming.”

Two other safety-related rule proposals will be discussed next week: a Philadelphia Eagles proposal to reduce preseason and regular-season overtime from 15 minutes to 10 minutes, and a prohibition of leaping over the line of scrimmage to block an extra point or field goal.

Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the league’s competition committee, said the NFL wanted to limit the amount of overtime in order to minimize the exposure of players whose teams might have quick turnarounds for their next game. The leaping rule would prevent players from putting themselves in potentially dangerous or awkward positions as they jump over opponents who are reaching for them. The previous incarnation of the rule was difficult to officiate.

Other developments from a conference call with reporters to preview some of the rule changes:

– Dean Blandino, the senior vice president of officiating, provided details on the league’s plan to address the pace of the game after point-after attempts and at halftime. There will be a 40-second game clock after PATs or field goals that aren’t followed by timeouts, and halftime will be timed at exactly 13:30.

– The committee will propose a second season of experimenting with a 2016 rule change that moved the touchback to the 25-yard line. It reduced returns last season by 1.8 percentage points, to a NFL-record low of 39.3 percent, but will be evaluated again after the 2017 season.

– The committee is recommending permanent approval of a rule to eject players who commit two of a certain type of unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in one game. It resulted in three ejections in 2016.

– Blandino said referees will contribute to replay decisions even though final authority is expected to be shifted to the league’s centralized officiating center.

– The Seattle Seahawks and Buffalo Bills have proposed a rule change allowing all officiating decisions to be reviewed, mirroring other teams’ proposals in recent years. It is highly unlikely to be approved.

Related Posts:




You can be the first one to leave a comment.

Leave a Comment