Picture this: Instant replay here to stay
Instant replay finally wore down its opponents as NFL owners voted 30-2 to make it a permanent fixture in games, John Clayton writes.
PHOENIX -- Instant replay finally wore down its opponents.
On Tuesday, NFL owners voted 30-2 to make instant replay a permanent part of NFL games. Only two years remained on the current proposal to keep replay officiating, and members of the competition committee worried a bad postseason of replays or a rule change or two might create enough opposition to bring replay to an end.
Thanks to Tuesday's vote, there is no more worry. Teams are going to spend $275,000 to $300,000 each this season to replace 8-year-old television equipment. For replay, the league is going to HD-quality pictures and the latest in technology. The Bengals and Cardinals were the only two teams voting against replay. Through the years, replay gained the support of the Bills, Bears and other teams that didn't like the replay revolution.
Here's what else happened during Tuesday's NFL owners meeting:
1. Owners improved the interview process for potential head coaches on Super Bowl teams. They voted 32-0 to allow assistant coaches who are in the Super Bowl to be available for second interviews during the bye week before the Super Bowl. Under the old rules, the first interviews could only happen during the wild-card weekend, but all talks were forbidden after that. Under the old rules, teams looking for head coaches usually didn't wait for top Super Bowl assistants. Now, a qualified candidate heading to the Super Bowl can be part of a second interview to help his chances of getting a job.
2. Despite being voted down, the coach-to-defense communication proposal gained a little more support. Defensive coaches hoped to pass a rule that would allow a coach to use radio communication with one defensive player in a system similar to what quarterbacks have with the offensive coaches. Last year, the proposal was voted down, with 18 teams for it and 14 against. This year, the vote was 22 for and 10 against. Wait until next year.
3. The 49ers withdrew their proposal to limit yardage on interference penalties to 15 yards. 49ers coach Mike Nolan didn't have much chance on this one. The competition committee voted 8-0 against the change. Its fear was giving cornerbacks the ability to make intentional penalties in trying to prevent long plays. The NFL wants good, vertical passing attacks. If a receiver is interfered with more than 30 yards down field, the ball is moved to the spot of the foul. This rule change would have hurt offenses. The NFL wants more offense, not less.
4. A point of emphasis for officials this year will be to continue to flag illegal contact. Officials will pay particular attention to receivers or tight ends who play in the slot or are near the goal line. If a receiver is grabbed after five yards while the quarterback is still in the pocket, the league wants a penalty called. The league feels the system is working. Illegal contact penalties dropped from 162 to 121 in 2006. Interference penalties dropped from 224 in 2005 to 187 last season. Some coaches believe the reason for the drop is more teams playing the Cover 2 zone in which corners play more away from the line of scrimmage.
5. The league will be a little more lenient calling roughing-the-passer penalties. Last year, a defender was flagged if he hit a quarterback and knocked him to the ground using an extended arm. Quarterbacks weren't getting hurt by these hits. They were merely being knocked on their backs. Although officials will penalize late hits and hits to the head of a quarterback, they will let the defender hit the quarterback with an extended arm as the QB releases the ball. For what it's worth, roughing-the-passer penalties dropped from 127 in 2005 to 106 in 2006.
6. Meet Dr. K. Starting this season, the NFL will hire a person to monitor the footballs used by kickers, commonly known as the K-Ball. In the past, kickers used to doctor the balls used in games. To fix the problem, the league mandated that new footballs, basically out of the box, be used by kickers in games. A newly hired person, usually a former official, will bring 12 new balls to each game, those balls being numbered 1 through 12. The official will allow a team equipment man to rub down the balls during a 45-minute window prior to the game. As the game progresses, that hired NFL official will make sure the No. 1 ball keeps being used as long as possible before going to No. 2, giving kickers a chance to wear down the balls. The league hasn't come up with a title for the new job, so they are calling the game K-ball official Dr. K.
7. In all NFL Europe games and 32 NFL exhibition games, the league will look at moving umpires into the offensive backfield instead of the defensive side of the field. This experiment is considered a safety issue because numerous umpires have been injured because so much action comes at them during plays. If the system works, the NFL might vote to make a change in 2008. This is only considered an experiment.
8. Don't be surprised if umpires wear helmets this season. Umpires were hit many times in the head with a pass or hit in the head after being knocked down on a running play. Umpires are tough and probably will reject such protection, but the league has looked at different type of helmets to protect umpires.
9. The NFL will continue to find ways to keep the pace of the games crisp. The league will try to minimize the number of times and the amount of time officials spend huddling over calls. The NFL will make sure a referee gets in and out of the replay machine in 60 seconds.
10. NFL officials will eliminate a well-publicized way they viewed the goal line. When an airborne ball-carrier came close to the goal line, officials used the idea that the goal line extended into infinity or around the world. All the airborne player had to do was get his body across that imaginary line to get credit for a touchdown. No more. The new concept is for the player to get the ball over the goal line. If he is nearing the sidelines, he must get the ball over the top of the pylon to score.
John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.
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