- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 21, 2017

The NFL owners meet in less than a week in Phoenix for their annual discussion of league-wide issues, and several proposed rule changes will be on the agenda.

The league’s competition committee has a number of new ideas. ESPN’s Kevin Seifert reported that the committee will recommend several changes, including hiring full-time officials before the start of the 2017 season.

Currently, referees are part-time employees, often with other full-time jobs, and have their own union. Working full-time would allow referees to commit to more training during the offseason, which could improve officiating, but it would also make them NFL employees.

Here are some other rules up for discussion according to Seifert:

  • Allowing referees a bit more leeway in excessive celebration penalties. This would not be a formal rule change proposal, but a recommendation that referees be instructed to allow celebrations that are not profane or prolonged, and to try to warn players before issuing a formal penalty.
  • Prohibiting players from jumping over the line of scrimmage to block field goals. This one comes from the Philadelphia Eagles. As it stands, players are allowed to jump over the line as long as they do not come into contact with any of the players they are jumping over. The New England Patriots, among others, used this tactic successfully last season, but the NFLPA has urged the competition committee to ban it in the past citing safety concerns. Referees don’t love it either because it is difficult to officiate.
  • Using the NFL’s officiating department at the league offices in New York for replay review decisions. Currently, on-field officials go “under the hood” to watch replays on the sideline before making a decision. The proposal is meant to speed up the process, and would allow referees to communicate with the office via wireless microphone. Referees would still be able to offer their opinions after watching replays on portable tablet devices.

The Washington Post’s Mark Maske also reported that automatic suspensions for some “egregious” hits will be discussed.

Shortening preseason and regular season overtimes to 10 minutes is also on the docket, according to NFL Network. Postseason overtimes would be left as they currently stand at 15 minutes.

In the non-rules-change category, the Raiders’ proposed move to Las Vegas should be a key item discussed over the course of next week. The owners could vote on whether to approve the move, even though the Raiders’ stadium lease proposal will not be done in time for the sessions.

Meetings begin Sunday at the Biltmore outside of Phoenix. At least 24 teams are needed to approve of any rule change or relocation.

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