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Leaping ban, replay tweaks ratified by NFL clubs

PHOENIX --At least the Broncos maximized the ability to leap across the line of scrimmage on placekicks while it lasted.

The play that Justin Simmons used to block Will Lutz's extra-point attempt in New Orleans last Nov. 13 will no longer be legal after NFL teams ratified the Eagles' proposal to ban leaping in the name of player safety.

Safety was the reason that Broncos Executive Vice President and General Manager John Elway cited when discussing how his view on leaping evolved to where he was in favor of the ban.

"As we start talking about it, and you talk about player safety, that's really what it was for, because it would only take one bad accident to have someone fall and get hurt seriously on that play," said Elway, a member of the Competition Committee. "Then we'd realize that we probably made a mistake if we hadn't put it in, so I think in the name of player safety, I was for [the change] but I thought it was an exciting play."

Instant replay will also change, as teams ratified the proposals to move final say on replay calls to the league office and have officials view replays via tablet on the sideline. These changes are expected to help improve the pace of play -- a key priority of this year's meeting.

NFL clubs tabled a proposal to reduce regular-season and preseason overtime periods from 15 to 10 minutes. They will revisit this potential change at the May owners' meeting.

Also tabled were regulations designed to clarify the definition of permissible celebrations. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell asked for the proposal to be tabled until May, because he wants to speak with a group of players before further discussion among owners takes place.

Other rules changes that were approved:

... The one-year change in ejecting players penalized twice in one game for unsportsmanlike-conduct fouls is now permanent.

... Kickoffs that end in touchbacks will be placed at the 25-yard line for a second consecutive year. NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said last week the league wanted to collect more data before making the change permanent.

... Receivers who run pass routes will be considered defenseless players. This means that even when a receiver is within five yards of the line of scrimmage, head or neck contact will result in a penalty.

... Crackback blocks by a running back or receiver in motion will now result in penalties -- even if the player is aligned more than two yards outside of the tackle at the time the ball is snapped.

... Multiple fouls on the same down with the purpose of "manipulating the game clock" will now result in an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty.

... The clock will now wind 10 seconds inside the last two minutes of each half if there are violations of the substitution rule or if a replay review results a reversal to a result that would require the running of the clock (e.g. if an incompletion is reversed to a completion that does not end with the receiver going out of bounds). Previously, both of these situations only led to a 10-second runoff in the last minute of each half.

The league also approved three bylaws:

... The first bylaw liberalizes the scope of teams' pre-draft visits with local players for this year, with the success or failure of the change to determine whether it will be made permanent.

Prior to Tuesday's change, teams were allowed unlimited amount of workouts with players who either live or attend college in an area near team headquarters -- which gave an unfair advantage to teams like the Miami Dolphins, Los Angeles Rams and Chargers and New Orleans Saints, among others, since they are in particularly fertile territory for developing football players.

Now, that area is expanded to a 50-mile radius, and teams will be assigned universities not necessarily in that zone from which they can have unlimited in-person visits.

"Each team now has a 50-mile radius to get those players that reside in that area and has three FBS schools that are assigned to them -- all big schools -- so we just tried to level that playing field," McKay said.

... Other bylaws that were improved involve allowing players on the physically unable to perform or non-football injury lists to return anytime after Week 6 -- just like the single recallable player on injured reserve each season -- and sending out transactions notices to teams on Sundays during training camp and the preseason.

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