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NFL may expand replay to personal fouls, and more

Upon Further Review Football

FILE - In this Dec. 8, 2011 file photo, referee Ed Hochuli , center, exits a replay booth on the sidelines during the fourth quarter of an NFL football game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and the Cleveland Browns in Pittsburgh. Thanks to a handful of attention-getting calls in this year’s playoffs, the officiating is a topic of conversation. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar, File)


Two of the 13 rule changes the NFL is considering involve expanding the use of instant replay by allowing coaches to challenge personal foul penalties -- and potentially much more than just that.

The first proposal, put forward by Washington, is to make personal fouls reviewable. This has been discussed for years, but during the 2013 season there seemed to be increasing calls for the league to open those calls to instant replay. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said during the postseason that he believes the rule will be changed.

“We want to make sure that we get it right on the field, so I believe that will be a reviewable call — I know the committee is going to study that,” Goodell said.

That proposal is likely to pass when the owners vote on new rules next week, but there’s another proposal that would go much further. The second proposal, put forward by New England, would allow coaches to challenge anything: If a coach believes the officials got it wrong and there’s indisputable video evidence, he can challenge it. Everything from false starts to holding to pass interference to the spot where a ball carrier’s forward progress stopped could be subject to review.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick explained during the season why he’s in favor of that change.

“I understand that judgment calls are judgment calls, but to say that an important play can’t be reviewed, I don’t think that’s really in the spirit of trying to get everything right and making sure the most important plays are officiated properly,” Belichick said. “If you get a situation where they call a guy for being offside, and you don’t think he was offside and you’re willing to use one of your challenges on that to let them go back and take a look at it — I understand if the evidence isn’t conclusive that the call stands. If it is [conclusive] than they’d overturn it. If it’s offensive holding, if you think one of the offensive linemen tackles your guy as he’s rushing the quarterback, and the ball hasn’t been thrown, they go back and look at it and if it’s that egregious of a violation they would make a call. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t. We have to live with that anyway but now it’s only on certain plays and certain situations.”

Belichick makes a good case, but he and Patriots owner Robert Kraft will likely have a hard time convincing a three-fourths majority of the ownership to expand replay to that extent. The NFL usually makes its rule changes incrementally, and the next step will likely be a vote next week to allow coaches to challenge calls on personal fouls.

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