NFL considers rule changes that include challenges for penalties at end of halves

By Josh Dubow

The Indianapolis Colts are proposing a rule change that would allow for challenges of penalty calls in the last two minutes of the half.

The NFL released a list of several rule change proposals on Wednesday made by teams that included an option to run a fourth-and-20 play in lieu of an onside kick, the moving of the trade deadline and giving teams an additional challenge if they are successful on one of their first two tries.

The competition committee will make its own rule change proposals next week and owners are scheduled to vote on them at the league meetings later this month with 24 votes needed for approval.

The most consequential change would allow for challenges of penalty calls at the end of each half, giving coaches or replay officials the chance to correct egregious mistakes.

Penalties could be challenged by coaches or the replay booth, but would be limited only to penalties that were called on the field and could not impose a penalty when it wasn’t called.

Replay review is currently not used for most penalty calls outside of too many men on the field or whether a ball was touched before a pass interference penalty occurred.

Replay is limited to aspects of a play such as whether a ball was caught or dropped, whether a player reached a first down or touchdown, whether a player fumbled before being down or whether a play was inbounds or out of bounds.

The NFL had a one-year experiment making potential pass interference calls reviewable in 2019 after a bad no-call cost the New Orleans Saints during the NFC championship game against the Los Angeles Rams the previous season. The league dropped that after one year.

The Lions also proposed giving a team a third challenge if one of its two first tries was successful. Currently teams only get a third challenge if they are successful on both of their first two attempts.

The Eagles once again brought up a proposal to alter onside kicks for end-of-game situations after only 5% of onside kicks in the fourth quarter were recovered by the kicking team, according to Sportradar. That’s down from 18.8% as recently as 2017 as new rules for safety have made recovering onside kicks more difficult.

The new proposal would allow a team trailing in the game to attempt a fourth-and-20 play from its own 20 following a touchdown or field goal instead of using a traditional onside kick.

The team would keep the ball at the yard line gained following a conversion or give the receiving team the ball if it failed. Teams could still opt to use surprise onside kicks.

Owners have voted down similar proposals with a fourth-and-15 option in recent years.

Here are some of the other proposals:

— The Steelers proposed moving the trade deadline back one week to the Tuesday following Week 9. Six other teams proposed moving it to the Tuesday following Week 10.

— The Eagles proposed requiring scoreboard clocks to display tenths of seconds in the final minute of each half.

— The Lions proposed eliminating the requirement that a player must be on the roster for at least one day following the cutdown to 53 players in order to be designated to return from injured reserve during the season.

Detroit also proposed allowing teams in the postseason to designate any player to return from IR after missing four games even if a team has used its allotment of eight designated to return slots in the regular season.

— The Bills proposed allowing a team to promote a third player each week from the practice squad to the active roster if that player is a “bona fide” quarterback and was designated as the emergency third QB for the game.



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