Refs lose fi­nal say on re­play

Own­ers ap­prove cen­tral­ized sys­tem, ban kick ‘leap­ing.’

Austin American-Statesman - - SPORTS -

One day af­ter ap­prov­ing the Oak­land Raiders’ move to Las Ve­gas, NFL own­ers meet­ing in Phoenix got busy pass­ing sev­eral rules changes and adopt­ing res­o­lu­tions they be­lieve will speed the game and en­hance player safety. Most no­table Tuesday was the change in han­dling of­fi­ci­at­ing of video re­plays. Ref­er­ees will now watch re­plays on the field us­ing tablets, elim­i­nat­ing “go­ing un­der the hood” to the watch on tele­vi­sion mon­i­tors.

League of­fi­ci­at­ing chief Dean Blandino and his staff in New York will make the fi­nal de­ci­sions on those calls, with in­put from the ref­eree, who in the past was the ul­ti­mate ar­biter af­ter con­sult­ing with league head­quar­ters.

“And I think that’s im­por­tant to re­mem­ber, we’re not tak­ing the ref­eree out of the equa­tion,” Blandino has said. “The ref­eree will still be in­volved, the ref­eree will still give in­put but will no longer have the fi­nal say.”

Own­ers also ex­tended bring­ing touch­backs out to the 25-yard line for an­other year; elim­i­nat­ing “leapers” try­ing to block field goals or ex­tra points; added pro­tec­tions for de­fense­less re­ceivers run­ning their routes; and made per­ma­nent the rule dis­qual­i­fy­ing a player who is pe­nal­ized twice in a game for spe­cific un­sports­man­like con­duct fouls.

Other ac­tions taken Tuesday in­cluded:

■ Ban­ning crack­back blocks by a back­field player who goes in mo­tion.

■ Cre­at­ing an un­sports­man­like con­duct penalty for com­mit­ting mul­ti­ple fouls dur­ing the same down with the pur­pose of ma­nip­u­lat­ing the game clock.

■ Al­low­ing teams to in­ter­view or hire an em­ployee of an­other team dur­ing the sea­son if given con­sent.

■ Mod­i­fy­ing some by­laws re­gard­ing bring­ing draft-el­i­gi­ble play­ers to clubs’ fa­cil­i­ties; chang­ing pro­ce­dures for re­turn­ing a player to the ac­tive ranks from lists such as phys­i­cally un­able to per­form, non-foot­ball in­jury or non-foot­ball ill­ness.

The leaper rule falls un­der the cat­e­gory of en­hanc­ing player safety, com­pe­ti­tion com­mit­tee chair­man Rich McKay said last week.

“I would say it’s go­ing to go as far as it needs to from a player safety stand­point,” said McKay, pres­i­dent of the Fal­cons. “We’re not go­ing to put play­ers in a po­si­tion in which we think there is an un­rea­son­able risk of in­jury.

“When we met with the NFLPA it was a rule that cer­tainly caught their at­ten­tion and they fa­vored it right from the out­set.”

Own­ers also were con­sid­er­ing whether to al­low play­ers and coaches to use tablets for video on the side­lines — they are limited to still pho­tos now; elim­i­nat­ing the sum­mer cut­down to 75 play­ers, mak­ing for one cut at the end of the pre­sea­son; al­low­ing un­lim­ited coaches’ chal­lenges and ex­pand­ing what calls can be chal­lenged; and re­duc­ing the length of over­time from 15 min­utes to 10 dur­ing the reg­u­lar sea­son.

Cow­boys: Tight end Ja­son Wit­ten signed a four-year con­tract ex­ten­sion that vir­tu­ally guar­an­tees the 14-year vet­eran will spend his en­tire ca­reer in Dal­las.

The deal Wit­ten signed Tuesday runs through 2021 and leaves the fi­nal year of the two-time All Pro’s cur­rent con­tract in­tact. The ex­ten­sion has a max­i­mum value of $29 mil­lion with no new guar­an­teed money and gives the Cow­boys the flex­i­bil­ity to re­struc­ture and cre­ate about $4 mil­lion in salary-cap space.

Wit­ten, who turns 35 in May, is one of two tight ends in NFL his­tory with at least 1,000 catches and 10,000 yards re­ceiv­ing. The other is Tony Gon­za­lez, who re­tired in 2013 af­ter 17 sea­sons.

Ea­gles: Agreed to terms on a two-year con­tract with de­fen­sive end Chris Long, who won a Su­per Bowl last sea­son with New Eng­land.

A No. 2 over­all draft pick by the Rams in 2008, Long spent eight sea­sons with St. Louis be­fore he joined the Pa­tri­ots in 2016. Long four sacks and 10 quar­ter­back hits in 16 games for New Eng­land and was an in­te­gral part of a de­fense that al­lowed an NFL-low 250 points.

Jets: Signed for­mer Colts of­fen­sive line­man Jonot­than Har­ri­son. He is ex­pected to add depth and pos­si­bly com­pete at cen­ter with Wes­ley John­son, who has not yet signed his re­stricted freeagent ten­der.

Browns: Re-signed de­fen­sive line­man Jamie Meder, who blocked a late field goal to give the team its only win last sea­son. The 6-foot-3, 308-pounder recorded 48 tack­les and a sack in 15 starts.

REN­DER­ING BY MANICA AR­CHI­TEC­TURE

A ren­der­ing of the planned Raiders sta­dium in Las Ve­gas. NFL own­ers on Mon­day ap­proved the club’s re­lo­ca­tion from Oak­land to play in the $1.7 bil­lion sta­dium, ex­pected to be ready for the 2020 sea­son.

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