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
Ezekiel Elliott Jul 15 5:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott is reportedly considering holding out from Cowboys training camp. The team and Elliott (with his agents) have been in conversation for over a month, and the general thought is that Elliott won't hold out if he thinks the team is "making a serious push to get an extension worked." Elliott knows his value is at a high point right now and with the beating he takes each year, he does not want to risk going into the season without an extension at least in the process of getting done. This seems like a lot of smoke and not much fire for now, but it's something to keep an eye on as the Cowboys are scheduled to report to training camp in less than two weeks.

From RotoBaller

Mike Davis Jul 15 5:40pm ET

Chicago Bears running back Mike Davis will head into training camp looking to become more than the 'forgotten' man in the team's backfield. Most of the fantasy buzz this summer has gone towards teammates Tarik Cohen and rookie David Montgomery but don't count out Davis. The free agent acquisition fell short of having a 'breakout campaign' last season but set career- best marks in carries (114), yards (514), receptions (34), receiving yards (214) and total touchdowns (5). Davis was one of many running backs that the Seahawks rotated last year and he posted two games with 100 yards from scrimmage or more. Davis was in line for a heavier workload this season but drafting Montgomery is certain to cut into the timeshare. It is hard to envision a scenario where Davis averages more than 15 carries a game this season but could lead the team in touches in the red zone for an ascending offense.

From RotoBaller

Jadeveon Clowney Jul 15 5:00pm ET

Houston Texans defensive end Jadeveon Clowney and the team were unable to reach a long-term deal before Monday's deadline, which means Clowney will play on the franchise tag this season. The former number-one overall pick is expected to hold out for most of training camp, but there's been no indication yet that he'll miss time during the season. Clowney's been injured a lot, but when healthy he's a disruptive defender and has tremendous upside in IDP leagues. His uncertain future does introduce some uncertainty for dynasty owners, though, as Monday's news likely means Clowney won't be a Texan when the 2020 season rolls around.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Jul 15 4:21pm ET

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has privately said he intends to hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract, according to Pro football Talk's Mike Florio via a league source.

David Johnson Jul 15 4:03pm ET

Arizona Cardinals RB David Johnson's receiving skills 'should come back to the forefront' after being 'all but ignored last season,' in the opinion of Darren Urban of AZcardinals.com.

Fantasy Spin: This has been the assumption among fantasy owners since Arizona hired Kliff Kingsbury, but it always helps to get it confirmed from a scribe that covers the team like Urban does. Johnson's goal of a 1,000/1,000 season may be a bit too much to ask, but this figures to be the 27-year-old's best shot of hitting those marks since his incredible 2016 campaign. He's well worth a pick in the top half of the first round of most fantasy drafts.

Alex Smith Jul 15 3:33pm ET

Washington Redskins QB Alex Smith (knee) will no longer be required to wear the external fixator that he had worn for eight months since suffering his devastating knee injury in November of 2018.

Grady Jarrett Jul 15 3:03pm ET

Atlanta Falcons DT Grady Jarrett reportedly reached an agreement on a four-year contract worth $68 million on Monday, July 15. Jarrett had been designated as the team's franchise player.

Ezekiel Elliott Jul 15 2:23pm ET

Dallas Cowboys RB Ezekiel Elliott has privately said he intends to hold out of training camp unless he gets a new contract, according to Pro football Talk's Mike Florio via a league source.

Fantasy Spin: Elliott still has two years left on his rookie contract, so this is a bit different than Melvin Gordon's situation. Unlike most of the running backs in the NFL in today's game, the two-time Pro Bowler has slightly more leverage here due to the lack of depth Dallas has at the position and how important he is to the Cowboys' offense. It's unlikely he'll hold out into the regular season though. However, if he does, rookies Mike Weber and Tony Pollard would likely split touches.

Robbie Gould Jul 15 12:50pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers agreed to a two-year deal with kicker Robbie Gould on Monday. The sides avoided a potential franchise tag controversy by guaranteeing Gould $10.5 million over two years with a team option for two additional seasons. There were rumors that Gould was unhappy in the Bay and preferred returning to his hometown Chicago, but that is now moot. Gould, 36, has been a steady boot throughout his career with an 87.7 field goal percentage and a 78 percent success rate on attempts of 40-plus yards. Since joining the Niners in 2017, hes converted 72 of 75 field goal tries (96 percent). With the 49ers offense expected to improve in 2019, Gould should be a solid fantasy kicker.

From RotoBaller

Josh Allen Jul 15 12:10pm ET

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen had a higher interception rate than touchdown rate and a completion percentage of just 52.8% during his rookie year. Going into his sophomore season, Allen seems very aware of the mistakes he made as a rookie and is eager to fix them. During an interview on XM NFL Radio last week, Allen said, "I know theres a lot of things that I missed on last year" and he described these misses as "A lot of dumb plays." He then went on to describe his goal of "Learning from those and then going into next season and trying to apply what Ive learned onto the field." Allen is a popular sleeper going into the 2019 season and if he can indeed cut down on the miscues, there's a good chance he could tap into some of that sleeper potential. He's a great target in two-QB leagues.

From RotoBaller

Kendrick Norton Jul 15 10:13am ET

Miami Dolphins DT Kendrick Norton (arm) will have his sixth, and likely final surgery, Monday, July 15, after he lost his arm in a car accident. He could be discharged from the hospital by next week.

Grady Jarrett Jul 15 9:53am ET

Updating an earlier report, Atlanta Falcons DT Grady Jarrett has some hope in beating the 4 p.m. ET deadline to sign a long-term deal Monday, July 15.

Derrick Morgan Jul 15 8:53am ET

Free-agent LB Derrick Morgan (Titans) announced his retirement Monday, July 15.

Robbie Gould Jul 15 8:33am ET

Updating an earlier report, San Francisco 49ers PK Robbie Gould's deal includes a $3 million signing bonus and fully guaranteed salaries of $3.15 million and $4.35 million. The option clause must be exercised by the 17th week of the 2020 season, which would fully guarantee Gould $2.25 million and another $2.25 million April 1, 2021. If the option is picked up, the deal would include a $4.5 million base salary in 2021 and a $4 million base salary in 2022.

Robbie Gould Jul 15 8:23am ET

San Francisco 49ers PK Robbie Gould agreed to a long-term deal before the deadline for franchise tag players Monday, July 15. The deal is a two-year, $10.5 million fully guaranteed deal with an option clause that can turn it into a four-year, $19 million deal with $15 million guaranteed.

Fantasy Spin: Gould is a back-end PK1 that could have some upside if Jimmy Garoppolo continues to progress the way he was before the knee injury.

Jadeveon Clowney Jul 15 8:23am ET

Houston Texans LB Jadeveon Clowney will not get a deal done before the deadline Monday, July 15, for franchise tag players to sign long-term contracts.

Grady Jarrett Jul 15 8:23am ET

Atlanta Falcons DT Grady Jarrett is unlikely to sign a long-term deal before the deadline for franchise tag players to do so Monday, July 15.

Christian McCaffrey Jul 15 3:03am ET

Carolina Panthers RB Christian McCaffrey might see a little more help in the backfield, as head coach Ron Rivera searches for a secondary runner. '(McCaffrey) him touching the ball was no concern,' Rivera said. 'It was just the extra plays. So we have to look at that and find a way to take that load from him.' The team re-signed RBs Cameron Artis-Payne and Elijah Hood, they drafted RB Jordan Scarlett, signed Elijah Holyfield as an undrafted free agent and have RB Reggie Bonnafon in the mix as well.

Fantasy Spin: McCaffrey will remain a first-round fantasy selection who will be the bellcow in Charlotte, but a little more rest, particularly late in games with the outcome already decided would not be a bad thing for C-Mac's long-term health. Fantasy owners shouldn't be terribly concerned.

Robbie Gould Jul 15 2:43am ET

San Francisco 49ers PK Robbie Gould was offered the $4.971 million franchise tag on Feb. 26, but he still has not signed the deal. Gould, who requested a trade back in April, is unsure that playing for the 49ers is best for him and his family. The deadline for a multi-year deal is 4 p.m. ET on Monday, July 15, and he said he was not going to commit to making a decision by then.

Jadeveon Clowney Jul 15 2:33am ET

Houston Texans DE/LB Jadeveon Clowney was offered the $15.967 million tag on March 4, but he has yet to sign it. He has been looking for a long-term extension, and the deadline to sign franchise-tagged players to a multi-year contract is coming up on Monday, July 15 at 4 p.m. ET.