NFL committee to decide whether to tweak interference rule

KEY BISCAYNE, Fla. — NFL owners gave the competition committee the go-ahead Wednesday to decide whether to refine the new rule allowing replay challenges involving pass interference.

The proposed tweak would take the decision on whether to review in the final two minutes of each half out of the hands of the officials. Reviews in the final two minutes would instead require a coach’s challenge.

The league fears too many stoppages of play in the closing minutes if reviews are left up to the officials. A decision on whether to make the change will come after the committee consults with coaches next month.

Owners voted in March to allow interference calls or non-calls to be challenged by coaches and reviewed via replay as a one-year experiment.

Under the rule adopted in March, in the final two minutes only officials in the booth can stop the game for reviews involving pass interference, as is the case with other reviewable plays.

The competition committee may also exempt Hail Mary passes so they’re not reviewable. That change would require coming up with a formal definition of a Hail Mary.

“We really don’t want our games to end on a review,” said Atlanta Falcons president and CEO Rich McKay, a member of the committee.

A proposed rule change requiring each team to have one possession in overtime was tabled for lack of support. The change was pushed by the Chiefs, who lost last season’s AFC championship game without getting the ball in overtime because the Patriots won the toss, received the kickoff and scored a touchdown.

There’s some support among owners to change the overtime rule in the post-season only, football operations chief Troy Vincent said. The league is expected to revisit the subject next year.

On other issues:

—Owners voted to eliminate the so-called Oklahoma drill and similar drills that involve especially violent one-on-one contact and have historically been popular early in training camp. A study found one of every five concussions during an NFL season occurs in the first two weeks of camp.

“We saw a certain area at the beginning of training camp where we felt could make greater improvement,” Commissioner Roger Goodell said, “and I think removing some of these drills across all 32 teams is the right way to do that. We also believe by prohibiting some of these drills, that will happen at the college and high school and youth football levels, which we believe should happen.”

The ban follows an examination of data and practice video with coaches, general managers and former players.

“I think some of the coaches were a little defensive at the start, and probably the biggest advocates at the end,” McKay said.

—Marijuana for pain management will be studied by a new committee of medical experts appointed by the league and players union as part of an effort to address player health. Marijuana is banned by the league.

“There are a lot of alternative pain medications and treatments,” Goodell said. “Those are the types of things we want this committee to focus on. One of those is what role medical marijuana can have.”

—Goodell said the NFL will wait to decide the status of suspended Chiefs receiver Tyreek Hill, who is the subject of a domestic violence investigation. “We will not interfere with that,” Goodell said. “We will obviously be co-operative with whatever the court wants. We are prepared to have an interview whenever we have the permission to do so, and then we’ll make a determination.”

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