All NFL player ejections will be subject to replay review if owners approve a competition committee proposal next week at their spring meeting in Atlanta.
The change, released in writing Wednesday by the NFL, is part of a larger effort to discourage players from lowering their helmets to initiate contact with opponents. Owners adopted that rule in March.
Flagrant instances of those fouls will lead to ejections, similar to the NCAA’s targeting rule. But the competition committee, along with many coaches and other on-field personnel, felt strongly about using replay as a safety net against such a severe penalty.
Assuming it is approved, a replay review will be required for all ejections, whether they result from a violation of the helmet rule, throwing a punch or any other flagrant act. In addition to the replay rule adjustment, the NFL also put in writing its plans to reimagine the kickoff in an attempt to reduce concussions associated with it. The proposal is similar to what a group of special-teams coaches suggested during a May 2 meeting at NFL headquarters.
The changes, designed to reduce high-speed collisions, include:
The elimination of running starts for kickoff coverage teams;
A requirement that eight of the 11 men on the return team must be aligned in the “setup zone” within 15 yards of the ball;
No blocking within the “setup zone” until the ball is touched or hits the ground;
The elimination of two-man wedge blocks;
Kickoff team must have five men lined up on either side of the ball, a move that will limit schemes designed to get free runners in coverage down the field.
Owners will gather next Tuesday and Wednesday in Atlanta for a busy spring meeting that will include votes on these proposals, along with the expected approval of David Tepper as the new Carolina Panthers owner. Also on the agenda is a discussion about the league’s policy for players during the national anthem. Current league rules request but do not require players to stand during the anthem.
Owners revealed significant differences in opinion on the issue in March and might not find a compromise, if at all, until closer to the season.