NFL owners considering onside kick change, extra referee

May 21 (UPI) — As the NFL attempts to start its season on time amid the coronavirus pandemic, the 32 league owners will vote on a list of rule changes, highlighted by a proposal for an extra game official and another for an alternate to the onside kick.

NFL teams received the list of possible rule changes Thursday, and team owners will be asked to vote on the proposals during a virtual meeting May 28. All proposals must be approved by 75 percent (24) of the league’s owners to be adopted.

The Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers both proposed the addition of a booth umpire — also known as a sky judge — as an eighth referee to the gameday officiating crew. Those teams also recommended the addition of a senior technology adviser to provide assistance to the officiating crew.

The proposals to add a booth umpire and technology adviser weren’t endorsed by the NFL’s competition committee, meaning they are unlikely to be approved as permanent rule changes. Instead, the committee recommended a preseason experiment for the rules.

The other notable proposal — put forth by the Philadelphia Eagles — involves an alternative to the onside kick. Instead of kicking off after a score, a team would have the choice to run one offensive play from its own 25-yard line. The club attempting to retain possession of the ball would need to gain at least 15 yards on the play.

NFL owners rejected a similar proposal last year from the Denver Broncos, but the league experimented with the change during the 2019 Pro Bowl.

Since the beginning of the 2018 campaign, when the NFL implemented new kickoff rules, the recovery rate on onside kicks has been about 10.4 percent, according to NFL Media. The success rate was 19.5 percent from 2001 to 2017.

Meanwhile, the league’s competition committee endorsed two minor rule changes for NFL owners to consider.

The first change would expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who has secured possession of the ball but hasn’t had time to avoid impending contact, while the second would prevent teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead ball fouls while the clock is running.

Also to be reviewed will be making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a penalty, and any extra point attempt.

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