Proposed Rule Changes in Order?

NFL teams and the competition committee made a few recommendations earlier this week, for topics to discuss at the upcoming NFL owners meeting, which will be held March 20-23 in Maui, Hawaii.

Among them is a proposal that would change the penalty for pass interference from a spot foul to a 15-yard penalty if the interference occurred further downfield than 15 yards. The enforcement, however, could change to a spot foul if the interference was deemed flagrant by the officials.

The league will continue to emphasize illegal contact for a second straight season, despite a desire to see the number of penalties involving illegal contact decrease.

During the 2003 NFL season, illegal contact was called 79 times, according to NFL Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay. That increased to 191 illegal-contact penalties in 2004. Defensive holding penalties increased from 188 in 2003 to 201 in 2004, but pass interference was actually called fewer times — 238 times in 2003 and 202 times in 2004.

"The feeling was that as the year went on and people got more comfortable as to how it was going to be called (in 2004), they adjusted their play," McKay said. "Our hope is that this year that adjustment continues when we re-emphasize it. … I just hope that we're able to modify conduct so that the number of fouls comes down."

The competition committee is also expected to focus on issues of player safety, including more emphasis on penalizing low blocks and "peel-back" blocks, which are blocks originating behind a player that the player cannot see coming. The committee will also focus on protecting punters and kickers from vicious blocks when they aren't directly involved in a play during a runback.

The use of instant replay could also be modified on plays that result in fumbles. The league will consider a proposal that would allow a team to recover a fumble even after an official has ruled a player down by contact if instant replay shows that the ball carrier was not down by contact and that there was no break in action. If the defense recovers the fumble in that situation, it would not be allowed to advance the ball.

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