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Competition committee rule proposal would review penalties

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Reviewing penalty calls, including pass interference, will be among proposals NFL owners will hear to expand replay when they meet next week in Phoenix.

Greater use of replay has become a scorching topic since the NFC championship game, when a non-call on a blatant pass interference and helmet-to-helmet hit by Rams defensive back Nickell Robey-Coleman likely cost the Saints a Super Bowl trip. That type of non-call would not be subject to review under the league’s competition committee’s proposal, however.

The committee will present one proposal to make reviewable pass interference that has been called, plus looking at all scoring plays and turnovers negated by penalty. In a second recommendation, pass interference and fouls for roughing the passer and unnecessary contact against a defenseless player would be reviewable as long as they are flagged. Both would be one-year trials.

But members of the powerful competition committee that reviews the rulebook each year don’t sense strong support for a major expansion of replay.

“They are always sharply divided, people have very strong views on replay,” Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and co-chairman of the competition committee, said Friday. “We wanted to get proposals that we worked on a lot based on data and based on a system we could be comfortable around. We know how tough replay is to get 24 votes for a league that from 1992-98 didn’t have replay.”

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For any rule change, three-quarters of NFL teams must vote yes.

“We welcome the discussion, and we feel like this is a good way to expand it,” McKay added. “We have data that shows these are the most impactful plays, and the ones we can change.”

Several teams also made replay proposals, including one by Kansas City that would address what happened in the Rams-Saints title game. The Chiefs are proposing potential personal fouls not called on the field be reviewed after a coach’s challenge. Robey-Coleman’s helmet hit would have fallen in that category.

Washington suggested making all plays challengeable by coaches or reviewable by the officiating department in New York. The Redskins also want to add reviews of personal fouls. So those alterations also would apply to the Rams-Saints play.

Philadelphia suggested adding scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul as subject to automatic review, no challenge needed. Denver proposed all fourth-down plays that are spotted short of the first-down marker be subject to automatic review, and also all extra-point attempts.

The Panthers, Rams, Eagles and Seahawks want to add review of designated player safety-related fouls whether called or not called on the field to what coaches can challenge. This also could be applied to the Robey-Coleman hit.

NFL operations chief Troy Vincent, a star defensive back when he played, said the committee met with everyone involved in such calls: players, coaches, officials, team owners, administrators.

“Officials have to live this out in real time,” Vincent explained. “This was about working to keep a system in place from a mechanical administration standpoint on game day, and the flow (of the game). The officials felt just expanding the current replay process, what is reviewable, that this is the best start for possible solutions on some of the issues.”

Proposals also on the agenda for owners to consider beginning Monday:

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—Amending the overtime structure so that both teams get a possession even if the first series ends in a touchdown. Currently, a TD on the opening possession ends the game.

Also, the Chiefs — who lost to New England in OT in the AFC title game without getting a possession — suggest that the team winning the coin toss to start the game get the choice for overtime, and an elimination of the extra period in the preseason.

—Allowing teams to elect to enforce on an extra point or on the succeeding kickoff an opponent’s personal or unsportsmanlike conduct foul committed during a touchdown.

—Permitting game officials or the officiating department in New York to eject players for both flagrant football and non-football acts. This would allow top officiating executive Al Riveron and his staff to use replay to look at egregious hits and at such acts as fights.

—Initiating a scrimmage play that would replace the onside kick for a team trailing in a game.

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