New rules likely coming but not to replay

Tue Mar 19 3:08am ET
By ARNIE STAPLETON
AP Pro Football Writer

In this Dec. 9, 2018, file photo, New York Giants president and CEO John Mara walks on the field before an NFL football game against the Washington Redskins in Landover, Md. Mara hears the cries to change the NFL's replay review system after officials failed to flag the blatant pass interference penalty and a helmet-first hit by the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman deep in Los Angeles territory in the NFC championship match. (AP Photo/Mark Tenally, File)


In this Jan. 20, 2019, file photo, Los Angeles Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) breaks up a pass intended for New Orleans Saints' Tommylee Lewis during the second half of the NFL football NFC championship game in New Orleans. The blatant non-call late in the NFC championship game caused passionate consternation among Saints fans and led to calls for change in the NFLs replay system. But there is not a lot of support for such a change because of the time it would add to games. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File)


DENVER (AP) In no sport but the NFL do players, fans, coaches and general managers annually debate the rules of the game, advocating ways to make pro football better, safer, fairer.

Officiating is especially a hot topic around the league after a blown call late in the NFC championship game pretty much cost the New Orleans Saints a trip to the Super Bowl.

That capped a season which began with the long-awaited clarification of what constitutes a catch and then was marred by widespread confusion over what exactly is a legal takedown of the quarterback. While defenders learned new ways to tackle to avoid flags for even glancing blows to the helmet, they complained about O-linemen illegally blocking too far downfield in the run-pass option craze that has successfully seeped in from the college game.

Giants owner John Mara hears the cries to change the NFL's replay review system after officials failed to flag the blatant pass interference penalty and a helmet-first hit by the Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman deep in Los Angeles territory in the NFC championship match. The non-calls helped Los Angeles force overtime and eventually win the game to reach the Super Bowl, leading to widespread displeasure with the current system regarding coaches' challenges.

Mara said last month at the NFL combine that the powerful competition committee isn't in a rush to change the replay system.

''I just don't sense a lot of support to use replay to call penalties. I don't sense a lot of support for the expansion of it, either,'' Mara said. ''We're early on, so that might change, but that's my sense of where we are right now. I'm not saying it won't change.''

The Canadian Football League has allowed pass interference, either called or uncalled, to be reviewed for the last five years. But the NFL has long been reluctant to expand replays for officiating because it would slow games even further.

Other major moves will be considered by the 32 owners at the league meetings in Phoenix beginning Sunday.

Several teams are proposing big changes to replay and overtime after a season of consistent criticism of officiating and which plays can be challenged or automatically reviewed. Any change requires a 24-vote threshold to pass.

Just like the USFL did with the 2-point conversion and other innovations back in the 1980s, the Alliance of American Football's debut this spring has brought novel ideas, some of which could find their way into the NFL rule book. Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh, a staunch advocate for adding more replay reviews to the NFL, is a big fan of the AAF's ''sky judge,'' an official watching from the press box level who can help call penalties from a bird's-eye view.

''Look how tough it is for these officials, all right. I know as a coach, what's the worst spot to watch the game from? Sideline. You see the least amount form the sideline. That's why you put coaches in the box,'' Harbaugh said. ''OK. So we've got all this technology and the fans actually have a better view of the game from an officiating standpoint than the officials do.

''So these clear and obvious mistakes that are inevitably going to get made, it's not just one play in a championship game; it happens every single week, because the job is so tough and moves so fast and the angles aren't great,'' Harbaugh added. ''If we can put somebody up there in the box that has a better angle that can help officiate the game from up there, do that. If we can add more replay, let's do that.''

Harbaugh said the league would save face by fixing a system everyone knows is flawed.

''Because at the end of the day it's about the credibility of the sport, and we can't have the other leagues outpacing us in terms of use of technology to make sure games are fair and well-officiated,'' Harbaugh said. ''We have great officials. These guys are incredible with what they do. We've also put a lot of rules in place that've made it really tough on them. They've got a lot on their plate.

''So let's add an official, let's add two officials, let's put one up in the box, let's expand replay if we want. Let's make sure that at the end of the day the fans walk out of the stadium and walk away from their TV sets knowing that was a good, hard-fought, well-officiated game and the outcome is as it should be and it was correct. The right team won the game.''

Players have their own ideas about ways to make the game better.

Broncos cornerback Chris Harris Jr. said the rules already in place need to be enforced, like flagging O-linemen who block too far downfield on the run-pass option plays that have become all the rage, leading to wide-open tight ends as linebackers come up to play the run.

''You can't have guys 4 or 5 yards downfield and (the quarterback is) still throwing the ball,'' Harris said.

''They've got to figure out the RPO stuff, but let me suggest a better rule,'' teammate Von Miller said. ''You know how you can't hit a defenseless receiver coming across the field? I feel like edge rushers should have the same protection from chippers. I feel like it's not fair.

''I'm looking right and I've got a receiver that shuffles in and blindsides me while I'm focusing on this play. I actually tore my ACL in a play like that in 2013,'' Miller said. ''I feel like the chips should be gone. I'm dead serious about that. You see guys get blindsided all the time.''

Miller said owners are eager to protect QBs and nowadays great edge rushers are getting paid just like franchise quarterbacks.

''We've got a lot of star pass rushers. All it takes is one of those plays and boom, that could be it for one of those guys,'' Miller said. ''This league is all about protecting the quarterbacks. How come they get protection and we don't?''

Player Notes
Eli Manning Apr 26 11:50am ET

New York Giants general manager Dave Gettleman called quarterback Eli Manning while the team drafted Duke QB Daniel Jones with the sixth overall pick in the first round on Thursday night to reiterate that Manning is expected to remain the starter in 2019. "It's your job to win games and keep this guy off the field," head coach Pat Shurmur told Manning. Gettleman mentioned that Jones could sit on the sidelines for multiple years before he becomes the starter. There have been mixed reviews on Jones, as some scouts like him and others think he is a "pedestrian talent" and a "backup." Jones obviously won't have any redraft value in 2019 fantasy drafts, and Manning will be an uninspiring QB2.

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Robbie Gould Apr 26 8:23am ET

San Francisco 49ers PK Robbie Gould won't be traded, according to head coach Kyle Shanahan.

Robbie Gould Apr 26 1:40am ET

San Francisco 49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan said that the team will not trade franchise-tagged kicker Robbie Gould. The veteran kicker isn't interested in a long-term extension with San Fran and has requested to be traded. If not, he has also threatened to hold out this summer. Gould was hoping to be on the free-agent market and wanted to return to Chicago, where his family resides. Despite his frustration, the 36-year-old booter made 97.1 percent of his 34 field-goal tries last year and is an 87.7 percent kicker in his lengthy career. He should remain on the map as a viable fantasy kicker for the 49ers despite his unhappiness.

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Tyreek Hill Apr 26 1:30am ET

Kansas City Chiefs general manager Brett Veach said that wide receiver Tyreek Hill "will not take part in any team activities" while he's being investigated for child abuse. A voice recording has surfaced that gives evidence towards Hill's mistreatment of his son while talking to his fiance. The boy suffered a broken arm, and the couple could lose custody of the child. Hill is likely to face a lengthy suspension from the NFL despite not being formally charged with any crime. The 25-year-old has become one of the most productive receivers in the NFL after recording 87 catches for 1,479 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2018. It might not matter, though, as he could be released by KC eventually. His absence would hurt quarterback Patrick Mahomes' overall upside, although tight end Travis Kelce and receiver Sammy Watkins could benefit with more targets.

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Josh Rosen Apr 26 1:30am ET

The Arizona Cardinals are prepared to keep quarterback Josh Rosen if they don't receive a suitable trade offer for him. Rosen is firmly on the trading block after the team selected QB Kyler Murray with the first overall pick in the first round on Thursday night. The Giants, Dolphins and Chargers have discussed Rosen with the Cardinals, but he profiles as a backup, at best, for all three teams. If a trade happens, it'll probably come on Friday. However, no matter how it shakes out, it doesn't look like Rosen will be a starter for any team in 2019. The Cardinals traded up into the top 10 to take Rosen in last year's draft, but that was with Arizona's previous coaching regime.

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Eli Manning Apr 26 1:23am ET

New York Giants QB Eli Manning is expected to be the team's starter entering the 2019 season, an arrangement that head coach Pat Shurmur indicated was the goal with Manning's job being to win enough games to keep rookie QB Daniel Jones off the field.

Fantasy Spin: If this sounds familiar it's because you heard it from every GM that drafted a QB last season, and yet all those rookies were starting sooner than later. Sure, Manning is almost guaranteed to start in Week 1, but with the G-Men likely to struggle it might not take long for the organization to decide it's time to look to the future. Whatever nominal value Manning might've had is all but gone with Jones' arrival.

Tyreek Hill Apr 26 1:03am ET

Kansas City Chiefs WR Tyreek Hill will not take part in any team activities for the 'foreseeable future,' according to GM Brett Veach, who added the team will gather more information before making the 'right decision.'

Fantasy Spin: This action is in direct response to an audio recording that came out earlier in the day that appears to feature Hill discussing events surrounding the injury suffered by his three-year-old son. Clearly the decision not to prosecute Hill is not the end of this story, and it's unclear what the final resolution will be regarding Hill's future in the NFL.

Jerry Tillery Apr 26 12:10am ET

The Los Angeles Chargers selected Notre Dame defensive tackle Jerry Tillery with the No. 28 overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft. Tillery has a high football IQ and is extremely athletic. The Chargers needed help on both lines, so Tillery fills a big need. There is evidence that he can be a dominant football player, but he'll need to be coached up at the next level. He has versatility and can play in either a 3-4 or 4-3 defensive scheme. The Bolts need Tillery's big body to clog up lanes and rush the passer.

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Deandre Baker Apr 26 12:10am ET

The New York Giants traded up with the Seahawks and selected Georgia cornerback Deandre Baker with the No. 30 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Baker is a very consistent football player and is the first straight corner taken in the 2019 draft. He's good at breaking up passes and making tackles in the open field. Baker doesn't have elite speed, but he has great instincts and could become a lockdown corner in the NFL. He can play zone or man coverage and is physical on the outside.

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Brian Burns Apr 26 12:00am ET

The Carolina Panthers selected Florida State edge rusher Brian Burns with the No. 16 overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft. Burns will bring the heat off the edge for the Panthers in his rookie season. He's an athletic freak and put on some weight without losing any speed before the NFL combine. Burns has quick-twitch speed and will help a Carolina D that really needs to rush the passer much better. He should make an immediate impact in 2019.

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Jeffery Simmons Apr 26 12:00am ET

The Tennessee Titans selected Mississippi State defensive tackle Jeffery Simmons with the No. 19 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Simmons was found guilty of malicious mischief in 2016 in an incident that involved several women, which is why he fell in the first round this year. Off-field issues aside, Simmons is a good football player that should be able to produce on Tennessee's defensive line. A lot of teams took Simmons completely off their draft boards because of his background. He has top-five talent, so he could wind up being a steal if he can stay healthy. Because of a knee issue, Simmons is a candidate for the Physically Unable to Perform list to begin the 2019 season.

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Darnell Savage Apr 26 12:00am ET

The Green Bay Packers traded up with the Seahawks and selected Maryland safety Darnell Savage with the No. 21 overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft. It's Green Bay's second pick of the first round on Thursday night. Savage is extremely versatile and had seven interceptions the last two years with excellent ball skills in the secondary. He's also a good tackler, has great range and can also cover receivers in the slot. Savage will be a Swiss Army knife for Green Bay's secondary in 2019 and beyond.

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Matt Ryan Apr 26 12:00am ET

The Atlanta Falcons traded up with the Rams and selected Washington offensive tackle Kaleb Mcgary with the No. 31 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Mcgary doesn't have great length but is physical and is just a solid athlete overall. The Falcons really put an emphasis on their offensive line in the first round, which is great news for quarterback Matt Ryan and the team's running game. Mcgary could wind up playing right tackle in his rookie season in Atlanta.

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Tom Brady Apr 26 12:00am ET

The New England Patriots selected Arizona State wide receiver N'keal Harry with the No. 32 pick overall in the 2019 NFL draft. It's no secret that the Patriots need wide receiver help with Josh Gordon suspended and tight end Rob Gronkowski retiring. Chris Hogan also left in free agency. Harry checks a lot of boxes and works hard at his craft. It's not easy to pick up New England's offense, so Harry will have his work cut out for him and will need to develop chemistry with quarterback Tom Brady, but he could be a sneaky late-round flier in redraft leagues.

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Clelin Ferrell Apr 25 11:50pm ET

The Miami Dolphins selected Clemson defensive tackle Christian Wilkins with the No. 13 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. He becomes the second Clemson defensive lineman to go in the first round this evening behind Clelin Ferrell, who went to the Raiders at No. 4. Wilkins might've been Clemson's best defensive lineman, though, and he can do amazing things for his size. Wilkins can move laterally and has excellent speed and is versatile in different defensive schemes.

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Frank Clark Apr 25 11:50pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks selected Texas Christian defensive end L.J. Collier with the No. 29 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. The Seahawks acquired this pick by sending defensive end Frank Clark to the Chiefs this week. Collier doesn't have elite speed, but he has excellent technique off the edge and produced in college. After Seattle traded Clark, they'll hope that Collier can pick up the slack as an edge rusher pressuring the opposing quarterback.

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Amari Cooper Apr 25 11:30pm ET

The Oakland Raiders selected Mississippi State safety Johnathan Abram with the No. 27 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. This is the selection that Oakland gained from the Cowboys when they traded receiver Amari Cooper last season. Abram had some really good seasons in college and welcomes contact in the secondary. He's a very good hitter and blitzer. Abram has very good cover skills and can also play in the nickel package well. He can cover tight ends and slot receivers and won't shy away from making plays around the line of scrimmage. The Raiders need a quarterback in the secondary, and Abram can be that for them.

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Preston Smith Apr 25 11:20pm ET

The Washington Redskins traded up with the Colts and selected Mississippi State edge rusher Montez Sweat with the No. 26 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Sweat's draft stock dropped significantly because of a heart issue that made many teams take him off their draft boards entirely. He showed excellent combine speed and has incredibly long arms. Sweat is a gifted athlete, so he could be an absolute steal in this draft if his health issues don't hamper him in his NFL career. Washington needs a pass rusher to replace Preston Smith, so Sweat should help them do that.

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Antonio Brown Apr 25 11:10pm ET

The Baltimore Ravens selected Oklahoma wide receiver Marquise Brown with the No. 25 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft. Hollywood Brown is cousins with Antonio Brown and has blazing speed. However, he's dealing with a Lisfranc foot injury and it's unknown if he'll be ready for training camp. Brown is electric with the ball in his hand and fits a huge need for a Ravens team that desperately needs production from their receiving corps. But on a run-first team, how will Brown fare, especially in his rookie season? Brown has tantalizing upside in the long term, but we wouldn't expect a whole lot right away. He could get off to a slow start if his foot injury causes him to miss out on development this summer.

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Deshaun Watson Apr 25 11:00pm ET

The Houston Texans selected Alabama State offensive tackle Tytus Howard with the No. 23 overall pick of the 2019 NFL draft. Quarterback Deshaun Watson was sacked the most in the NFL in 2018, so you could say they've had trouble protecting their signal-caller. He has the feet, balance and athleticism to play in the NFL. Howard has a lot of upside and will immediately improve Houston's weak offensive line, which is great news for both Watson and the team's rushing attack.

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