NFL owners will be presented 10 rules proposals at their meetings next week, including changes to the catch rule and to the length of defensive pass interference penalties, and allowing personal fouls to be reviewed by instant replay.
The competition committee and several teams are bringing the proposals, which will be reviewed by owners beginning Monday in Orlando.
Other suggestions include making permanent spotting the ball at the 25-yard line following a kickoff; adding fouls for roughing the passer and penalties against players in a defenseless posture as reviewable in instant replay; designating a member of the officiating staff at New York headquarters to instruct on-field game officials to eject a player for a flagrant non-football act that drew a flag; and limiting the allowable time for a coach to throw a challenge flag.
Included in a dozen bylaw proposals is allowing a player on injured reserve to be traded, and schedule adjustments for western teams playing in the East.
Redefining the catch rule is the highest priority, according to Troy Vincent, the NFL’s football operations chief, and Rich McKay, who chairs the powerful competition committee.
“We tried to simplify the rule with a three-step process,” McKay said Friday. “Control, two feet down or a body part, and then anything that is a football act. It could be like Jesse James reaching for the goal line .”
The Steelers tight end had a likely winning touchdown catch overturned against New England, one of the most critical plays of last season. In 2018, if the new definition of a catch is passed, it would be a touchdown.
“We got rid of ‘going to the ground,’ which was definitely causing some issues on these calls,” McKay added of the process of completing a catch that has caused so much consternation.
Vincent noted that despite slight movement of the ball in a receiver’s hands, that is not loss of possession. Under the proposal, it would constitute a reception.
“With movement (of the ball), you can still have control with movement,” Vincent said. “That’s also addressed in the new proposal language.”
Equally controversial has been the defensive pass interference call. The Jets are proposing a change from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty — unless the foul is determined by officials to be intentional and egregious. That suggestion drew plenty of discussion among competition committee members; both Vincent and McKay said it had “momentum” heading into the owners meetings.
Vincent was an outstanding defensive back in the NFL and has deep insight into pass interference.
“The difference between college ball and professional defensive backs is the (pros) were too skilled and too smart, and you can play the play, you can be strategic about it,” he said. “You don’t want a defensive back being able to strategically grab a guy, eliminate the options (on a play).
“As a former defensive back, on a professional level you can frankly bait a quarterback into doing whatever you want.”
McKay noted there was one 50-yard or longer defensive pass interference call last season, three of 45 or longer, and seven of 40 or more.
Allowing officiating director Al Riveron or designated staff members at New York headquarters to call for an ejection of a player is a proposal emanating from committee meetings with game officials.
“They were quick to point out in these situations where a lot is going on — a fight or something else in dead ball situations — many times they are at a loss to capture exactly what happened and the right numbers (of offending players),” McKay said.
—If a team opens overtime with a field goal, then gets a turnover on the opponent’s next possession, that play will be run to conclusion. Previously, if the team that kicked the field goal fumbled the ball and it was run back for a touchdown by the opponent, that TD wouldn’t count because of a change of possession. Now, it would count.
Such a situation has never occurred since the rule change allowing each team an OT series.
—Owners will be asked to approve allowing video use on sideline and coaches’ box tablets. Now, only photos can be examined.
—Coaches will have a set amount of time during a commercial break to throw a challenge flag.
—Extra points need not be converted at the end of regulation after a team scores the winning touchdown.
McKay pointed to the end of the Saints-Vikings playoff game.
—Teams seeking head coaches after the season be allowed to negotiate and sign a contract, though the coach would still be prohibited from doing any work for his new team until his club is done in the postseason.