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Rules on replay, injury list could change

By BARRY WILNER - AP Pro Football Writer
    2012-03-21 20:35

NEW YORK (AP) - Instant replay could undergo some changes when NFL owners meet next week.

The owners will get proposals to eliminate referees from instant replay reviews and expand what the booth official rules on, and also to allow a player to return during the season from the injured reserve list.

The league's competition committee, prompted by the Buffalo Bills, will propose having the booth official make all decisions on replay reviews. The booth official also would be allowed to review all turnovers just as all scoring plays are reviewed.

``This proposal will definitely spark some discussion,'' Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the committee, said of possibly taking away review responsibilities from the refs. ``We developed our system based on the last time we had replay. That's how we developed the referee to be the decision maker.''

Buffalo believes the time spent reviewing plays would be cut by taking the referee out of the equation.

As for reviewing turnovers, the impetus was to provide more flexibility to coaches in using their challenges.

The committee will also propose expanding the overtime rule used in the postseason - both sides must have an offensive possession if the receiving team kicks a field goal to start the extra period - to the regular season.

That rule, instituted in 2010, has yet to become a factor in the playoffs.

And a player hurt in preseason or early in the schedule could be designated as able to return from injured reserve after six weeks and play after eight weeks rather than sit out the entire season. The idea is to keep marquee players who get hurt early available to return late in the season.

Beginning Tuesday, Sept. 11, each club is permitted to designate one player who suffered a ``major 3/8 football-related injury after reporting to training camp as eligible to return. That would be a significant change; the previous rule was a player placed on IR must miss four games. In 1993, that was changed to the entire season because teams tended to put promising prospects on the list rather than having to release them.

Until 1990, IR players had to sit out six games.

The Steelers, who proposed the overtime alteration, also suggested making a horse collar tackle on a quarterback inside the pocket a 15-yard penalty. That is the only situation where such a tackle is not penalized.

``Every once in a while a defensive lineman reaches over and grabs the quarterback and pulls him down,'' said McKay, whose committee looked at every horse collar tackle in 2011. ``They just believe that should be a foul, because today it is not.''

Expansion of the defenseless player rules to protect defensive players against crackback blocks to the head area or being blocked by an opponent headfirst also is on the agenda for the spring meetings in Palm Beach, Fla., that begin Monday. Now, they are only protected against low crackback blocks.

The trade deadline could be moved from after the sixth week of games to after the eighth week. 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 so as not to conflict with President Obama's speech on Sept. 6 at the Democratic National Convention.

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