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Updated: March 25th, 2014 6:04pm
Notebook: NFL bans goal-post dunks, Toby Gerhart to lead Jaguars' rush

Notebook: NFL bans goal-post dunks, Toby Gerhart to lead Jaguars' rush

by Andrew Krammer
1500ESPN.com
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NFL players will be penalized next season for dunking the football over the goal post, in the same vein that players are already flagged for using any sort of prop in their touchdown celebrations. 

In an interview with the "Dan Patrick Show," the NFL's head of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed the rule change. 

"Dunking will come out," Blandino said. "Using the ball as a prop, or any object as a prop, whether that's the goal post, cross bar, that will come out and that will be a foul next season. New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham vented his frustration via Twitter on Tuesday (which has since been deleted) regarding the rule change, but the change has more than likely been enacted because of his signature celebration. 

In a November game against the Atlanta Falcons, Graham caused a delay in the action after he bent the goal post.

Blandino also added that the "Lambeau Leap," or the act of jumping into the crowd, has been grandfathered in. 

But Vikings fans should still get a kick out of San Francisco 49ers tight end Vernon Davis' failed dunk attempt after he scored a touchdown against the Packers in the 2012 season opener. 

Toby Gerhart likely to be the Jaguars' workhorse

The Jacksonville Jaguars signed former Minnesota Vikings running back Toby Gerhart to a three-year, $10.5 million deal after the Stanford product left Minnesota when his rookie contract expired. 

Gerhart, 26, has relatively low mileage after playing behind Adrian Peterson in each of his four seasons in the NFL. He's accumulated just 276 carries. To put that in perspective, Peterson had 279 carries in 14 games last season. 

Via Pro Football Talk, Jaguars coach Gus Bradley discussed Gerhart's role next season.

"He has the ability to play all three downs," Bradley said Tuesday, according to a transcript from the Pro Football Writers of America. "How many carries he gets - we would like to run the ball over 40 percent of the time. There might be 28-30 carries in a game and there aren't more running backs that carry more than 20 times a game.

"If he's a guy that is carrying it 15-16 times and with third down reps, 18 times. That's feasible. A strong possibility."

Doing the math, Gerhart would double his carries across the past four seasons by taking 288 handoffs if he were to average 18 carries per game and stay healthy for a full season.

Will pass interference be reviewable? 

NFL owners voted on Tuesday to centralize replay, allowing officials to seek input from the NFL's officiating office, in order to speed up the process. 

According to Blandino, league owners are also considering making personal fouls, including often-controversial pass interference calls, reviewable. 

"There's a couple of proposals to make, one to make personal fouls reviewable and the other to make any officiating decision reviewable, both came from teams," Blandino said. "It has been discussed, we understand [PIF] is a big penalty. There's a lot of subjectivity to that call. I don't know where the membership is in terms of whether we're going to see that proposal pass. But it has been discussed at length to make that call reviewable.

"There's some issues with that, in terms of how many reviews we have. Are those really objective facts that the replay system is designed to look at versus subjectivity, which is what a lot of those fouls have a lot of." 

The Vikings were victimized at least twice last season from obvious officiating errors, per former coach Leslie Frazier, who admitted that Blandino had contacted him twice following poor officiating decisions in the Vikings' 5-10-1 season last year. At least one of those plays included Gerhart's fumble in a Dec. 8 loss at Baltimore. However, turnovers are already automatically reviewed. That error would ideally be helped by the NFL's vote to centralize replay and get more eyes on those types of plays. 

NFL bans 'roll up' blocks to the side

The NFL also instituted a rule change on Tuesday to add the words "or side" to the existing rule that an offensive player's block can't be followed up by rolling into the back, and now "or side," of a defensive player's legs. 

While that's a step in the right direction for balancing out the rules that protect offensive vs. defensive players, it won't help plays like the one that gave former Vikings defensive tackle Kevin Williams a significant bone contusion and a posterior capsular strain in a preseason game in August. 

On that play, 49ers guard Joe Looney went low on Williams, but the NFL ruled the play was not illegal because Looney was "moving toward his own goal line." Before last season, the NFL banned "peel-back" blocks on all areas of the field, but that didn't do much to defend unexpecting defenders from low blocks like Looney's. The current definition of a peel-back block disallows blocks to the side or below the waist if the defender is 'moving toward his own end line' or 'approached from behind or the side'. 

Looney's block was controversial because, as Williams said in August, it appeared the block could have been just as effective if Looney had hit the unexpecting Williams in the shoulder pads instead of going low. 

Andrew Krammer covers the Minnesota Vikings for 1500ESPN.com. He previously covered the Gophers men's basketball team for the Minnesota Daily.
Email Andrew | @andrew_krammer
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