NFL owners mull proposal to order unstable players off field

 

NFL owners are considering a proposal to stop games when a medical adviser sees a player displaying obvious signs of disorientation.

The proposal was a late addition by the powerful competition committee at the owners’ meetings that began Monday. It would allow a medical spotter upstairs to communicate with the officiating crew when a player appears unstable.

The game would be halted to remove the player, who then would undergo sideline examination at the very least.

Rich McKay, co-chairman of the committee and president of the Atlanta Falcons, said his group reviewed, among others, a play in the Super Bowl where Patriots receiver Julian Edelman appeared wobbly, yet remained on the field.

"We got the (medical) spotters, they’ve got a really good vantage point, they’ve got technology in their booth, they’re communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors and we’ve got a pretty good rhythm going there," McKay said.

"Why would we miss a play where a player should have come out of the game?"

The player’s team would be allowed to substitute for him, and the opposite team also would be given a chance to change personnel.

That is one of two dozen proposals and rules changes being considered by the owners in a busy agenda.

Other suggested changes include using instant replay for reviewing all penalties called by game officials, yes, pass interference and holding calls, too; all personal fouls; penalties against defenseless players; any foul that results in an automatic first down; and clock issues.

New England even proposed that everything except scoring plays or turnovers be challengeable, and Washington suggested increasing a coach’s number of challenges from two to three, regardless of whether he is successful on an early challenge.

Owners will vote on some of the proposals in the next two days, with several likely being tabled until the next major meetings in May.

Rams coach Jeff Fisher explained why the competition committee does not endorse using replay for penalties.

"The committee’s position for years has been to oppose involving fouls in replay for a lot of different reasons," he said. "We’ve looked at a lot of tape this offseason, we looked at the fouls particularly relating to hits on defenseless players. We had 27 of them this year, we looked at them as a group. We could not agree on a number of them.

"That’s just the nature of the standard in replay."

Fisher added that the league’s officiating department will review fouls on a Monday and can take "20-30 minutes, maybe an hour, to determine whether it was in fact a foul. So you can see the issues that we’re going to have if we involve those things in replay."

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One alteration not coming is to catch-no catch parameters. That has been a particularly hot topic since the NFC playoff game in which Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant had a catch near the Green Bay goal line late in the fourth quarter reversed to an incompletion.

Vice president of officiating Dean Blandino explained that the language within the rule is being tweaked for clarification. But the process required for a catch is not being changed.

"For years the requirements for a catch — the way it was communicated in the rule book — is control, both feet (in bounds) and then, after that, the receiver had to have the ball long enough to perform an act common to the game," Blandino said. "That was defined as being able to pitch it, pass it, clearly advance the ball as a runner."

That created confusion, which Blandino believes will be eliminated by changing the wording.

"So in order to complete a catch, the receiver has to have control, both feet on the ground and he has to have it after that long enough to clearly establish himself as a runner," he said.