Rules changes focus of meetings
PALM BEACH, Fla.—Instant replay and injured reserve -- the NFL's IRs -- will be main topics as the owners consider several rules changes at their spring meetings this week.
The Buffalo Bills have proposed having the booth official make all decisions on replay reviews instead of referees. Under another suggestion, the booth official also would be allowed to review all turnovers just as he now does for all scoring plays.
"This is a proposal that will definitely, I think, generate discussion, but I think it was directed at trying to speed it up," said Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the competition committee.
"The thing about our system is we developed our system based on our experience the last time. That's how we developed the idea that the referee would be the decision maker because we felt like he had the best ability to one, talk to the on-field official and two, have complete command of the rules and the application of them."
Last year, the committee recommended having the booth official review all scoring plays and now it is proposing expanding his duties to all turnovers. That should help coaches in deciding when to use their challenges.
"We took scoring plays from the coaches and put it upstairs as an automatic review for him to confirm," McKay said of the replay official. "If he felt it needed to be reviewed by the referee, then he stopped the game. We would use that same procedure for turnovers: fumbles, interceptions and the like."
A change to the injured reserve requirements for a designated player would be the first alteration in rules for that list since 1993.
Until 1990, IR players had to sit out six games, and until `93 that became four games. Then the league clamped down on teams that "hid" prospects they might lose if released by placing them on IR even if their injuries were minor -- or nonexistent.
"I'm going to call it an injured reserve exception for major injury to a designated player," McKay said.
"Traditionally, in our system, injured reserve players have been out for the year. In this case, if that player was on the roster all the way through the first regular-season weekend, then you could put that player on injured reserve, designate that player for return and the player could begin to practice six weeks after he has gone on that list. And play in games eight weeks after he has gone on that list. "
Another proposal will allow each team to designate one player per week who can go on the inactive list because of a concussion and be replaced on the roster.
The NFL rarely tinkered with overtime until two years ago, when the Saints won the NFC title by winning the coin toss to start the extra period, marching downfield and kicking a field goal.
Beginning in the 2010 season, that scenario required the team that lost the toss to get a possession, but only in the playoffs.
That rule change has had no impact thus far, but the Steelers want it as part of the regular season, too. The league's coaches subcommittee and the players' union support the change.
"What the coaches' feeling was ... strategically they like to prepare the same way in the regular season that they do in the postseason," McKay said, "and they really don't want to have different rules and have to change their approach to overtime."
NFL owners also will consider moving the trading deadline from after the sixth week of the schedule to after the eighth week. McKay said the hope is to generate more deals.
"The trade deadline has traditionally been a little disappointing," he said. "There is a lot of talk about it but then not very many transactions because of the nature of our sport being such a team sport. But our thought is that there could potentially be more trades now because of the salary cap and adjustment to it, and this was a way to give people a little more leeway."
Also proposed is allowing teams to have 90 players on the offseason and training camp rosters before the first cut, but counting unsigned draft choices. In the past, those unsigned players were not part of the 80-man rosters.
McKay said the final cutdown to 53 could be moved up one day to Friday, Aug. 31 because the opening game will be played on a Wednesday night this year.