Competition Committee Meeting Preview

Yesterday, the NFL announced its agenda for this year's Competition Committee meetings in Maui, Hawaii in a conference call headed up by Atlanta Falcons General Manager Rich McKay, who co-chairs the Committee along with Tennessee Titans head coach Jeff Fisher.

The committee also includes Seattle head coach Mike Holmgren, Houston GM Charlie Casserly, John Mara of the Giants, Ozzie Newsome of Baltimore, Bill Polian of Indianapolis, and Mark Richardson of Carolina. The committee met with players during the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis, and they’ll use information gathered in those meeting to advance several league-related issues. Of special interest to fans will be several rules changes that could help player safety and hopefully eliminate some of the more nebulous aspects of instant replay.

The Competition Committee meetings will run from March 20-23.


PROPOSED RULES CHANGES

NFL teams and the competition committee made a few recommendations for topics to discuss at the meetings. 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 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.

ALSO DISCUSSED …

  • McKay acknowledged the NFL doesn’t expect a repeat of last year’s playoff phenomenon, when two 8-8 teams, including the St. Louis Rams, made the playoffs. "We don’t envision that it will be more than one division a year (sending an 8-8 team into the playoffs) — in this case there were two, but I don’t envision that in the future," McKay said.
  • The league will discuss four different proposals to build a stadium in Los Angeles, but a decision on which proposal to move forward with will likely not be made until at least the May 24 meeting in Washington, D.C., NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said.
  • The league will also consider a proposal for Kansas City to host a Super Bowl no sooner than 2012 and no later than 2022, contingent on the city and team building a new retractable-roof stadium.
  • The league will also discuss stadium-financing proposals in Dallas and Indianapolis.

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