PHOENIX - A day following the NFL decision to allow the Oakland Raiders to relocate to Las Vegas, NFL owners blazed through numerous rule and by-law proposals nearly as quickly as the vote on the Raiders took place Monday.
It all happened so fast that the meetings ended Tuesday afternoon rather than at lunchtime Wednesday. Not surprisingly, a few proposals were tabled because there wasn't enough time to adequately discuss them with the owners.
The most notable change for 2017 will be the centralization of replay reviews in New York City with league director of officiating Dean Blandino's staff making the final decision. No longer will the referee go "under the hood" on the sideline. Instead, he will have a hand-held tablet and will communicate with the league office during the review.
While Pittsburgh Steelers head coach Mike Tomlin said he is "extremely comfortable" with the change, when asked if he believes it will add to more accurate calls, Tomlin said, "Accuracy is a slippery slope. I think the consistency of the calls will go up when the judgment is centrally handled."
Leading the other seven changes is the banning of players from leaping over the line of scrimmage in an attempt to block a field goal or extra-point try.
One of the most dramatic plays last season occurred when Denver Broncos safety Justin Simmons leaped over the line to block an extra-point attempt, and safety Will Parks ran it back for a two-point play and 25-23 win over New Orleans.
"It definitely stinks," Simmons said of the practice being banned. "I don't see how it's dangerous in any way."
His general manager disagreed. Said John Elway, "Obviously it helped us. I liked the play, but I understand where we eventually got with the committee as far as player safety. That was the most important thing. It would take one bad injury on that play for us -- if we hadn't done something about it -- to have felt pretty bad. I think it was the right move and the right direction."
Other players also disagreed with Simmons. In fact, Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and Competition Committee chair, said when the committee met with a group of players at the Combine, they said, "We don't like this play."
The six others that passed were:
--Made permanent a rule to disqualify a player who receives two penalties for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls.
--Extended for another season the rule placing the spot of the snap after a touchback following a kickoff to the 25-yard line.
--The defenseless player designation has been extended to wide receivers running a pass route.
--Crack-back blocks have been 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."
--Players who commit multiple fouls during the same down in attempt to manipulate the clock will now be assessed unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.
--Finally, the league made "actions to conserve time illegal after the two-minute warning of either half."
Tabled until the May meeting was a proposal to shorten overtimes from 15 to 10 minutes. That was one that McKay acknowledged owners didn't have enough information to make a decision.
A by-law proposal not adopted was a procedure in which a player with a concussion could be replaced on the active roster an unlimited number of time during the season when declared out on the injury report.
By-laws passed were:
--Liberalized rules for timing, testing, and administering physical examinations to draft-eligible players at a club's facility for one year only.
--Changed the procedures for returning a player on reserve/physically unable to perform (PUP) or reserve/non-football injury or illness to the active list to be similar to those for returning a player that was designated for return. That eliminated the time each season after the 11th weekend when a player on PUP was not permitted to play again that season.
Another by-law tabled so more data can be communicated was one where teams can negotiate a contract and come to agreement with a potential head coach while his team is still playing in the post-season. The caveat is that no agreement can be announced nor can an actual contract be executed.
Also tabled was a proposal of added emphasis to eject players because of particularly egregious hits, of which McKay said there were only three during the 2016 season. McKay insisted, however, that watching large amounts of video, "We were pleasantly surprised and impressed. We have to give credit to players, coaches, and going back to college and high school, where we see players adjust the way they play the game well within the rules."
As for trying to become more consistent on post-touchdown celebrations, commissioner Roger Goodell said he will meet with a group of players in hopes of bringing clarity to the rules while still allowing players to show their personalities and celebrate.