NFL owners ban leaping over line to block kicks; approve centralised replay

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Blocking field goals and extra points will become a little more difficult in the NFL this year, but replay reviews may have been simplified. 

NFL owners on Tuesday voted to approve the rule change prohibiting players from leaping over linemen in an attempt to block a field goal or extra-point attempt.

"We've seen several examples where the players have been flipped over, land on their head, their neck, and a potential for a serious injury certainly increases when you have a player in a vulnerable position, who's now going to be knocked off balance and really can't control the way they land," Atlanta Falcons president and competition committee chairman Rich McKay said on a conference call last week.

The proposal, which NFL executive vice president of football operations Troy Vincent said was in the "best interest of the game," was submitted by the Philadelphia Eagles.

League owners also voted in favour of a centralised replay system. Designated members of the officiating department at the league's New York office will have the final say on replay reviews and relay the ruling to the in-stadium referee, who will have access to the replays on a hand-held tablet. The proposal passed with a unanimous vote. 

Similar to the NCAA's targeting rule, the owners also approved a rule that would allow for an automatic ejection "if a runner or tackler initiates forcible contact by delivering a blow with the top/crown of his helmet against an opponent when both players are clearly outside the tackle box" and the contact is deemed flagrant. 

They also approved a competition committee proposal making permanent automatic ejections after two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.

A proposal to reduce the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 minutes was tabled by owners, who also set aside a proposal that would have allowed teams to officially agree to terms with a coach whose team was still playing in the postseason. 

A proposal from the Washington Redskins to place the ball at the 20-yard line if the kicker puts it through the uprights on a kick-off did not pass. A proposal submitted by both the Buffalo Bills and Seattle Seahawks that would allow coaches to challenge any officials' decision except scoring plays and turnovers was also rejected. 

Other changes approved by owners were:

-- Changing the spot of the next snap after a touchback resulting from a free kick to the 25-yard line for one year only. 

-- Giving a receiver running a pass route defenceless player protection.

-- Making crack-back blocks prohibited by a backfield player who is in motion, even if he is not more than two yards outside the tackle when the ball is snapped.

-- Making it an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty to commit multiple fouls during the same down designed to manipulate the game clock. 

-- Making actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half.

-- Liberalising rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club's facility for one year only. 

-- Changing the procedures for returning a player on reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) or reserve/non-football injury or illness (NFI) to the active list to be similar to those for returning a player that was designated for return.  

-- The league office will transmit a personnel notice to clubs on Sundays during training camp and preseason.

-- Permit a contract or non-contract non-football employee to interview with and be hired by another club during the playing season, provided the employer club has consented.