NFL Football

New NFL rules likely coming, but not replay for penalties

(AP Photo/Mark Tenally, File)

By ARNIE STAPLETON

AP Pro Football Writer

DENVER (AP) In no sport but the NFL do players, fans, coaches and general managers annually debate the rules of the game, advocating ways to make pro football better, safer, fairer.

Officiating is especially a hot topic around the league after a blown call late in the NFC championship game pretty much cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

That capped a season which began with the long-awaited clarification of what constitutes a catch and then was marred by widespread confusion over what exactly is a legal takedown of the quarterback. While defenders learned new ways to tackle to avoid flags for even glancing blows to the helmet, they complained about O-linemen illegally blocking too far downfield in the run-pass option craze that has successfully seeped in from the college game.

Giants owner John Mara hears the cries to change the NFL's replay review system after officials failed to flag the blatant pass interference penalty and a helmet-first hit by the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman deep in Los Angeles territory in the NFC championship match. The non-calls helped Los Angeles force overtime and eventually win the game to reach the Super Bowl, leading to widespread displeasure with the current system regarding coaches' challenges.

Mara said last month at the NFL combine that the powerful competition committee isn't in a rush to change the replay system.

"I just don't sense a lot of support to use replay to call penalties. I don't sense a lot of support for the expansion of it, either," Mara said. "We're early on, so that might change, but that's my sense of where we are right now. I'm not saying it won't change."

The Canadian Football League has allowed pass interference, either called or uncalled, to be reviewed for the last five years. But the NFL has long been reluctant to expand replays for officiating because it would slow games even further.

Other major moves will be considered by the 32 owners at the league meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.

Several teams are proposing big changes to replay and overtime after a season of consistent criticism of officiating and which plays can be challenged or automatically reviewed. Any change requires a 24-vote threshold to pass.

Just like the USFL did with the 2-point conversion and other innovations back in the 1980s, the Alliance of American Football's debut this spring has brought novel ideas, some of which could find their way into the NFL rule book. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a staunch advocate for adding more replay reviews to the NFL, is a big fan of the AAF's "sky judge," an official watching from the press box level who can help call penalties from a bird's-eye view.

"Look how tough it is for these officials, all right. I know as a coach, what's the worst spot to watch the game from? Sideline. You see the least amount form the sideline. That's why you put coaches in the box," Harbaugh said. "OK. So we've got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.

"So these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it's not just one play in a championship game; it happens every single week, because the job is so tough and moves so fast and the angles aren't great," Harbaugh added. "If we can put somebody up there in the box that has a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, do that. If we can add more replay, let's do that."

Harbaugh said the league would save face by fixing a system everyone knows is flawed.

"Because at the end of the day it's about the credibility of the sport, and we can't have the other leagues outpacing us in terms of use of technology to make sure games are fair and well-officiated," Harbaugh said. "We have great officials. These guys are incredible with what they do. We've also put a lot of rules in place that've made it really tough on them. They've got a lot on their plate.

"So let's add an official, let's add two officials, let's put one up in the box, let's expand replay if we want. Let's make sure that at the end of the day the fans walk out of the stadium and walk away from their TV sets knowing that was a good, hard-fought, well-officiated game and the outcome is as it should be and it was correct. The right team won the game."

Players have their own ideas about ways to make the game better.

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said the rules already in place need to be enforced, like flagging O-linemen who block too far downfield on the run-pass option plays that have become all the rage, leading to wide-open tight ends as linebackers come up to play the run.

"You can't have guys 4 or 5 yards downfield and (the quarterback is) still throwing the ball," Harris said.

"They've got to figure out the RPO stuff, but let me suggest a better rule," teammate Von Miller said. "You know how you can't hit a defenseless receiver coming across the field? I feel like edge rushers should have the same protection from chippers. I feel like it's not fair.

"I'm looking right and I've got a receiver that shuffles in and blindsides me while I'm focusing on this play. I actually tore my ACL in a play like that in 2013," Miller said. "I feel like the chips should be gone. I'm dead serious about that. You see guys get blindsided all the time."

Miller said owners are eager to protect QBs and nowadays great edge rushers are getting paid just like franchise quarterbacks.

"We've got a lot of star pass rushers. All it takes is one of those plays and boom, that could be it for one of those guys," Miller said. "This league is all about protecting the quarterbacks. How come they get protection and we don't?"

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AP Pro Football Writer Barry Wilner and AP Sports Writer Mike Marot contributed.

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Follow Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/NFL and https://twitter.com/AP-NFL

Updated March 19, 2019

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Teams Score Time
NCAA FB
Appalachian State   3:30pm
North Carolina  
Ball State   7:00pm
NC State  
NFL
Carolina   Sun 4:05pm
Arizona  
NHL
Carolina   7:00pm
Washington  
Teams Score Time
Air Force 19 F
Boise State 30
Utah 23 F
USC 30
Boston College   12:00pm
Rutgers  
California   12:00pm
Ole Miss  
Elon   12:00pm
Wake Forest  
LSU   12:00pm
Vanderbilt  
Michigan   12:00pm
Wisconsin  
Southern Mississippi   12:00pm
Alabama  
Tennessee   12:00pm
Florida  
Western Michigan   12:00pm
Syracuse  
Appalachian State   3:30pm
North Carolina  
Auburn   3:30pm
Texas A&M  
Louisville   3:30pm
Florida State  
Miami (OH)   3:30pm
Ohio State  
SMU   3:30pm
TCU  
UCF   3:30pm
Pittsburgh  
Washington   3:30pm
BYU  
Central Michigan   4:00pm
Miami  
Ball State   7:00pm
NC State  
Old Dominion   7:00pm
Virginia  
Oregon   7:00pm
Stanford  
Charlotte   7:30pm
Clemson  
Oklahoma State   7:30pm
Texas  
Notre Dame   8:00pm
Georgia  
Colorado   10:00pm
Arizona State  
UCLA   10:30pm
Washington State  
Teams Score Time
Interleague
Philadelphia 2 F
Cleveland 5
Philadelphia   7:10pm
Cleveland  
American League
Seattle 3 F
Baltimore 5
Toronto 4 F
New York 3
Boston 4 F
Tampa Bay 5
Chicago 10 F
Detroit 1
Kansas City 3 F
Minnesota 4
Los Angeles 4 F
Houston 6
Texas 0 F
Oakland 8
Toronto   1:05pm
New York  
Boston   6:10pm
Tampa Bay  
Chicago   6:10pm
Detroit  
Seattle   7:05pm
Baltimore  
Kansas City   7:10pm
Minnesota  
Los Angeles   7:10pm
Houston  
Texas   9:07pm
Oakland  
National League
St. Louis 2 F
Chicago 1
New York 8 F
Cincinnati 1
Washington 6 F
Miami 4
San Francisco 0 F
Atlanta 6
Pittsburgh 1 F
Milwaukee 10
Arizona 9 F
San Diego 0
Colorado 5 F
Los Angeles 12
St. Louis   2:20pm
Chicago  
New York   4:10pm
Cincinnati  
Washington   6:10pm
Miami  
Pittsburgh   7:10pm
Milwaukee  
San Francisco   7:20pm
Atlanta  
Arizona   8:40pm
San Diego  
Colorado   9:10pm
Los Angeles  
Teams Score Time
Atlanta   Sun 1:00pm
Indianapolis  
Baltimore   Sun 1:00pm
Kansas City  
Cincinnati   Sun 1:00pm
Buffalo  
Denver   Sun 1:00pm
Green Bay  
Detroit   Sun 1:00pm
Philadelphia  
Miami   Sun 1:00pm
Dallas  
New York   Sun 1:00pm
New England  
Oakland   Sun 1:00pm
Minnesota  
Carolina   Sun 4:05pm
Arizona  
New York   Sun 4:05pm
Tampa Bay  
Houston   Sun 4:25pm
Los Angeles  
New Orleans   Sun 4:25pm
Seattle  
Pittsburgh   Sun 4:25pm
San Francisco  
Los Angeles   Sun 8:20pm
Cleveland  
Chicago   Mon 8:15pm
Washington  
Teams Score Time
Buffalo 0 F
Toronto 3
Nashville 1 F
Tampa Bay 3
New York 2 F
New Jersey 4
New York 4 F/OT
Detroit 3
St. Louis 4 F/OT
Winnipeg 3
Calgary 2 F
Edmonton 6
Pittsburgh   2:00pm
Columbus  
Colorado   6:00pm
Minnesota  
Carolina   7:00pm
Washington  
Montreal   7:00pm
Ottawa  
New York   7:00pm
New Jersey  
New York   7:00pm
Philadelphia  
Toronto   7:00pm
Buffalo  
Florida   8:00pm
Dallas  
Tampa Bay   8:00pm
Nashville  
Vegas   8:00pm
San Jose  
Boston   8:30pm
Chicago  
Anaheim   9:00pm
Arizona  
Vancouver   9:00pm
Los Angeles  
MONSTER ENERGY NASCAR CUP SERIES AT LAS VEGAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 19 Martin Truex Jr 24
2 4 Kevin Harvick 3
3 2 Brad Keselowski 18
4 9 Chase Elliott 8
5 12 Ryan Blaney 23
6 88 Alex Bowman 19
7 24 William Byron 14
8 42 Kyle Larson 15
9 22 Joey Logano 22
NASCAR XFINITY SERIES AT RICHMOND
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 20 Christopher Bell 4
2 22 Austin Cindric 1
3 00 Cole Custer 12
4 7 Justin Allgaier 2
5 98 Chase Briscoe 5
6 18 Harrison Burton 6
7 9 Noah Gragson 8
8 8 Zane Smith 15
9 1 Michael Annett 10
NASCAR GANDER OUTDOORS TRUCK SERIES AT LAS VEGAS
Pos # Name Start Pos
1 16 Austin Hill 7
2 45 Ross Chastain 2
3 51 Christian Eckes 1
4 2 Sheldon Creed 6
5 4 Todd Gilliland 3
6 30 Brennan Poole 18
7 24 Brett Moffitt 4
8 99 Ben Rhodes 13
9 18 Harrison Burton 9