AP sources: NFL to consider expanding replay reviews

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NEW YORK (AP) — The NFL will consider expanding replay reviews to include certain penalties, including pass interference.

Two people with direct knowledge of the NFL’s plans tell The Associated Press that the league’s competition committee once again will look into including more plays for video review. The people, who spoke Tuesday on condition of anonymity because the NFL has not publicly announced such plans, stressed that the committee looks into the parameters of replay yearly. It has considered inclusion of what are considered judgment calls by officials in the past.

Officiating once more became a hot topic during Sunday’s NFC championship game. A missed call by referee Bill Vinovich’s crew of a blatant pass interference penalty and helmet-to-helmet hit by Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman on Saints receiver Tommylee Lewis likely cost New Orleans a spot in the Super Bowl.

Saints coach Sean Payton said Al Riveron, the NFL’s senior vice president of officiating, told him afterward that a flag should have been thrown.

“Considering the current climate after what happened in New Orleans, yes, that’s something the committee once again will strongly look at,” one person said. “It gets talked about each year, but it’s not been something the ownership or the league has gone for.”

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Indeed, the powerful competition committee always has opposed placing judgment calls of any kind in the replay process. Any changes to replay would need approval by at least 24 of the 32 team owners, but first the competition committee would need to recommend such alterations.

One reason the league has been loath to expand replay is a fear it would significantly lengthen games — and not with any real action.

Expanding the number of coaches’ challenges also could occur. That’s been discussed before and usually tabled or not presented to the owners. Several head coaches, including Payton, have expressed their support of more challenges.

The competition committee is comprised of chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons; owners John Mara of the New York Giants and Stephen Jones of the Dallas Cowboys; Mark Murphy, president of the Green Bay Packers; general managers John Elway of the Denver Broncos and the retiring Ozzie Newsome of the Baltimore Ravens; and coaches Mike Tomlin of the Pittsburgh Steelers and, coincidentally, Payton. They will meet at the NFL combine, and also in early March before the league’s annual owners meetings in Phoenix at the end of that month.

“It’s tough to get over it,” Payton said of the non-call with 1:41 left in regulation, which would have given the Saints an opportunity to run down the clock and possibly kick a go-ahead field goal with little time remaining.

“My problem with it is, I just don’t know, if we were playing pickup football in the backyard … it was as obvious a call — and how two guys can look at that and arrive at their decision? It happened though.”

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