NFL notebook: League office can help refs with replays

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ORLANDO, Fla. – The NFL officiating department will help referees rule on instant replay reviews starting next season.


League owners passed a rule Tuesday allowing referees to consult with director of officiating Dean Blandino and his staff to help determine whether a call should be upheld or overturned. NFL officials said the change should speed up the process.


Blandino and other staff will be monitoring the games from league offices in New York, and they will immediately begin reviewing challenges before the referee even gets to his monitor. They can make recommendations on what replays to look at, but the referee still will make the final decision.


Rich McKay, Falcons president and co-chairman of the influential competition committee, called it “kind of a proof of concept to see how this works. We feel pretty comfortable with it, though.”


“What we do like is we take the true experts in replay, those in New York, to be able to communicate with the referees who have the ultimate decision,” McKay said. “We just think we get a more consistent decision-making process.”


Blandino said the new process will be faster and make more eyes available to help in the reviews.


“We’ll be reviewing all the angles the network is providing, in essence finding what is the best reviewable aspect, and getting a baseline for the referee,” he said. “Then we will begin the communication process with the referee once he is done speaking to the coach and announcing the challenge.


“Consistency is what we are striving for in officiating and this will definitely help us in that area.”


One coach, Cincinnati’s Marvin Lewis, a member of the competition committee, believes the entire procedure has been upgraded.


“By consulting with New York, they can speed up the review process while they talk to the referee,” Lewis said. “They can tell the referee: ‘Here are the shots all set for you to look at.”’


Players no longer will be allowed to dunk the football over the crossbar of the goalposts in celebration.


Blandino said the NFL is making a clarification of the rules for mutual respect and sportsmanship.


“We put a rule in several years ago about not using props on the football field: the football, the pylon,” he said. “This is just expanding upon that rule to include the crossbar of the goalpost. We had the situation with (Saints tight end) Jimmy Graham knocking the uprights off kilter last season and it delayed the game.”


The owners also banned roll-up blocks to the side of a player. In the past, the rule only barred such blocks from behind.


A dozen other proposals for rules or bylaw changes were being considered by the owners, with votes on them expected today.


Philbin: Will improve workplace culture: In the wake of the Dolphins bullying scandal, Miami coach Joe Philbin has pledged to improve the workplace culture. That includes spending more time in the locker room himself.


“I think the visibility factor could make a difference,” Philbin said, adding that while he’s always had a presence “it’s safe to say I’ll do it more.”


An NFL investigation determined Richie Incognito and two other Dolphins offensive linemen engaged in persistent harassment of Jonathan Martin. Incognito, who was suspended after Martin left the team, missed the final eight games last season and became a free agent when his contract with Miami expired.


Philbin said he will encourage players to feel comfortable coming to him to discuss any issues or problems arising within the locker room or the team in general.



Decisions, decisions: Cleveland has the fourth overall pick in this year’s draft, and there’s speculation the Browns are interested in selecting one of the quarterbacks expected to go early in the first round.


First-year coach Mike Pettine said the team, which has other weaknesses in several areas, is keeping its options open.


“At the fourth pick there are going to be some outstanding players available,” Pettine said. “But I also think, given where the roster is right now, that if the best player there is a quarterback we’re in a position to take him. And if it’s not, I think it’s a deep enough quarterback class that we could pursue that option later in the draft.”


Pettine said there’s no pressure to find the quarterback of the future.


“I don’t think you want to force it. If that guy’s not there at that pick, I don’t think you take one and force the issue, saying this is the quarterback of the future,” Pettine said. “We’re doing our homework on all of these guys. We’re going to log a lot of miles in the next couple of weeks, and hopefully we can find that quarterback that’s going to best serve the Cleveland Browns.”


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