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Rule-change proposals highlight league meetings


Possible changes to the instant replay system, overtime rules and injured reserve are among the proposals from the NFL's competition committee that will be discussed and voted on at next week's league meetings in Florida.

Atlanta Falcons President/CEO Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee (of which Packers President/CEO Mark Murphy is a member), outlined all of the proposed changes in a conference call with media on Wednesday. Seventy-five percent of the league's owners (24 of 32) must approve any change for it to take effect.

Of the seven proposed rule changes, two involve the instant replay system. One proposal would subject all turnovers to automatic review, just as scoring plays became subject to automatic review during the 2011 season. Another proposal would transfer all replay decisions to the booth official, eliminating the current procedure that requires the referee to view the replay "under the hood" on the field.

"The theory there would be to speed up the review process," McKay said.

Regarding overtime, the league might make the current postseason overtime format – which requires that each team have a chance to possess the ball, unless a first-possession touchdown is scored – the rule for all regular-season games as well.

McKay said many of the league's coaches have pushed for this change to avoid strategic differences between the regular season and playoffs. He said the players' association endorsed doing this for the regular season as well, so consistency with the rule is being pursued.

Other proposed rule changes include:

Modifying the rule on "horse-collar" tackles to make it illegal to tackle a quarterback in the pocket by pulling him down by the collar inside the back of his jersey, or by the shoulder pads. Currently, tackling a quarterback in the pocket this way is legal, an exception to the general "horse-collar" rule.

Expanding the definition of "defenseless players," who cannot be hit in the head or neck area or by an opponent leading with his head, to include defenders absorbing a crackback block.

Making "too many men on the field" a dead-ball penalty for the offense if lined up for more than three seconds, and for the defense if the snap is imminent. McKay said this was in reaction to the end of the Super Bowl, when the Giants had 12 men on defense as the Patriots ran a pass play with 17 seconds left in the game. The pass was incomplete and the Giants were penalized 5 yards, but the Patriots then only had eight seconds left to run one more play. This change would not affect situations where an extra player is running to try to get off the field in time.

The most significant of the proposed changes to the league's bylaws relates to injured reserve.

It would create an exception to season-ending injured reserve, allowing an injured player to be placed on IR while still keeping him eligible to return that season. The player would have to be on the active roster through the first weekend of the regular season, and then he could return to practice six weeks after (and play in games eight weeks after) being placed on IR, rather than have the IR move end his season.

McKay said this would allow coaches and general managers greater flexibility in making roster decisions on key players who get hurt during training camp or early in the regular season, when the injury may not be truly season-ending. If available back then, the Packers might have utilized this rule in 2010 when running back Ryan Grant injured his ankle in Week 1 and was placed on IR.

"This is directed at the core, marquee type player you think has a chance to come back late in the season," McKay said.

Other proposed bylaw changes involve:

Increasing the traditional 80-player roster limit for the offseason and training camp to 90, but unsigned draft picks would count against that number. Currently, unsigned draft picks do not count against the 80-man limit. If adopted, this proposal would result in the first cutdown during training camp bringing rosters down to 80, and the final one to 53.

Changing the final roster cutdown date at the end of the preseason to Friday as opposed to Saturday. With the 2012 kickoff opener scheduled for Wednesday night this year rather than the customary Thursday, this would allow teams involved in that game – and the Packers are one potential opponent for the Super Bowl champion Giants on Sept. 5 – to practice with their final roster on the Saturday before the game.

Moving the trading deadline back two weeks, from Week 6 of the regular season to Week 8.

Allowing one roster exemption per team per week for a player diagnosed with a concussion. The player would have to be put on, or removed from, this temporary inactive list by Friday prior to a Sunday game.

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