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Updated: March 22nd, 2011 12:29pm
NFL passes modified rule changes on kickoffs, reviews of scoring plays

NFL passes modified rule changes on kickoffs, reviews of scoring plays

by Tom Pelissero
1500ESPN.com
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NEW ORLEANS -- Kickoffs are headed for the 35-yard line, and scoring plays are headed for booth reviews.

That was the upshot of Tuesday's votes on two key playing rule proposals, which both ended up modified before gaining approval at the NFL meetings.

Pushback from coaches prompted the league's competition committee to remove language that would have put the ball on the 25-yard line, rather than the 20, after touchbacks and eliminated the two-man wedge.

A reduced proposal passed by a 26-6 vote on the other two components of the plan: moving up the kickoff 5 yards and prohibit members of the kick-coverage unit from lining up more than 5 yards behind the ball. Both are aimed at shortening the field to reduce injuries. A violation of the 5-yard rule will be a 5-yard penalty.

Rich McKay, the chair of the competition committee, said he expects touchbacks to increase by 5% to 15%. Last season, 80% of kickoffs were returned, McKay said.

The new replay rule will give the replay assistant, not coaches, the right to trigger a review on any scoring play, just as reviews already operate in the final 2 minutes of each half. It passed by a 30-2 vote. However, an additional change that would have eliminated a coach's third challenge if his first two were successful was removed before the proposal went to vote.

Two other minor changes also passed.

• The half will not be extended if there is a major-minor double foul in a dead-ball situation. Previously, an untimed down was played if the major foul was on the defense. Instead, such fouls now will be enforced on the ensuing kickoff.

• Unless approval is received from the commissioner, the playing surface "must be a League-approved shade of green."

A proposal to enhance rules protecting defenseless receivers was tabled and could be revisited during the next meetings in May.

Tom Pelissero is Senior Editor and columnist for 1500ESPN.com. He hosts from 6 to 8 p.m. weeknights and co-hosts from 10 a.m. to noon Sundays on 1500 ESPN Twin Cities.
Email Tom | @TomPelissero | Tom Pelissero
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