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.”
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.
“We have a potential rule change where we could raise the uprights, so you may have more issues with that if guys are dunking.”
The owners also banned roll-up blocks to the side of a player. In the past, the rule only barred such blocks from behind.
“We saw some plays on tape that we just felt like we needed to expand that protection,” McKay said.
A dozen other proposals for rules or bylaw changes were being considered by the owners, with votes on them expected today.
Bills owner Wilson dies at 95
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Buffalo Bills owner Ralph Wilson, who helped found the American Football League in 1960, died at his home Tuesday afternoon. He was 95.
Bills president Russ Brandon made the announcement at the NFL winter meetings in Orlando.
Wilson was the founder and sole owner of the Bills after establishing the team with the upstart AFL in 1960. He played a key role in the league merger’s with the NFL. He was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 2009.
Wilson died at his home in Grosse Pointe Shores, Mich., around 1:40 p.m., said Mary Mazur, spokeswoman for the Wayne County medical examiner’s office.
He had been receiving in-home hospice care.
Wilson had been in failing health for several years.
Irsay’s court hearing delayed
INDIANAPOLIS — Prosecutors have postponed an initial court appearance for Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay indefinitely.
Irsay had been scheduled to go to court Wednesday following his March 16 arrest on drug-related charges, but the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office issued a statement Tuesday saying the hearing was postponed “unless or until” formal charges are filed against him.
Prosecutors and Irsay’s family say he is undergoing treatment at a facility outside of Indiana.
The 54-year-old Irsay was arrested near his home in suburban Carmel on preliminary charges of misdemeanor driving while intoxicated and four felony counts of possession of a controlled substance. Police say they found multiple prescription drugs in his vehicle.
Hamilton County Chief Deputy Prosecutor Andre Miksha said prosecutors aren’t bound by preliminary booking charges.
Kelly expects more cancer surgery
BUFFALO, N.Y. — Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly is expected to undergo surgery following the return of oral cancer. His wife, Jill, says the cancer is aggressive and starting to spread.
The 54-year-old former Buffalo Bills star is being treated in New York City. Brother Dan Kelly told The Associated Press on Tuesday that doctors are leaning toward surgery on Thursday or perhaps April 1.
Kelly’s Buffalo doctors said March 14 the return of the cancer was discovered when he came for follow-up tests after surgery to remove cancerous cells last year.
Dan Kelly said his brother is humbled by an outpouring of prayers posted on social media. Jill Kelly has been providing updates on Twitter and her blog.
Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
Dallas files complaint against Ratliff
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Dallas Cowboys have filed a complaint against Jay Ratliff and are seeking compensation from the defensive lineman.
Ratliff was sidelined last season while recovering from a sports hernia that required surgery. He was placed on the physically unable to perform list, but when he told the Cowboys he was not physically able to play, they released him in October.
A week later, Ratliff’s surgeon medically cleared him to play and he signed with the Bears, playing five games for them.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones calls it “undermining” when a player “can say he is hurt one day and signs to play with a team another.”
The collective bargaining agreement does not cover such disputes. The Cowboys have brought their complaint to the NFL’s management council and the players union.
By wire sources