NFL owners table onside kick alternative proposal

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FILE – In this Aug. 17, 2017, file photo, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell answers questions during a season ticket member fan forum before practice at the Cleveland Browns NFL football team’s training camp facility in Berea, Ohio. Several NFL teams are reopening their training facilities Tuesday, May 19, 2020, while many are prohibited by government restrictions during the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioner Roger Goodell gave the 32 clubs the go-ahead for limited reopenings as long as state and local municipalities allow them. (AP Photo/Tony Dejak, File)

(AP) – NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is hopeful that coaches will be able to return to their team facilities by next week.

Goodell said Thursday following an owners conference call that the virtual offseason is being extended for two more weeks.

NFL owners tabled a proposal that would have offered a fourth-and-15 play as an alternative to the onside kick. They approved testing expanded use of video replay in the preseason to aid in officiating.

Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay said there were more clubs receptive to the onside kick alternative than in the past and it will be further explored.

“There were lots of really good questions about the impact and nuances” such a change would involve, McKay said. “This was the longest discussion, I imagine 20 to 30 minutes on that. We ended up tabling it after taking a pulse where teams stood on it. We’ll bring it back at some point.”

The 32 owners also increased the number of players who may be designated for return from the injured list during a season from two to three.

Also passed was making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful extra points.

The competition committee’s recommendation to expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but has not had time to avoid or ward off contact of an opponent also was approved. McKay said such incidents on punt returns were rare but “there were enough that gave us concern.”

“I think our focus has been and continues to be on protecting our players, particularly those in a defenseless position,” Goodell said. “I think this move just underscores our commitment to taking various unnecessary techniques out of the game to make our games safer for our players.”

Another approved recommendation stops teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running — an issue that came up several times in 2019, including during the postseason.

Using video replay for pass interference calls was dropped after a one-year experiment that led to more uncertainty than clarity. Many people in the league cited the presence of too much subjectivity in the reviews.

Tabled was a proposal to have a booth judge serve as an eighth official on each crew and call for reviews on certain plays. The league will experiment with additional review options during the preseason as requested by the referee to the replay assistant.

“What we thought we could do in the preseason, this test allows for the ref to have communication with the replay assistant,” McKay explained. “We have always allowed that communication, and now there are more areas given them to seek consultation. We always liked that idea.”

The preseason is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6 with the Pro Football Hall of Fame game between Pittsburgh and Dallas. It’s an uncertainty — as is the NFL’s regular season — because of the coronavirus pandemic. But the league has stated it plans to play everything as scheduled while making contingency plans that could include no fans at games, moving or delaying games.

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