NFL owners to vote on sky judge, onside kick alternative May 28

With the NFL trying to start the season on time, owners will consider a slate of rules changes, highlighted by a proposal for a sky judge to help officiating and another to give teams an option to an onside kick. Owners are expected to vote on rules during a May 28 virtual meeting.

The league's competition committee had already determined that the one-year rule that allowed replay review of pass interference penalties was so unpopular, it would not even propose it be continued for another year. But an idea that sprang from last year's conversation that led to the pass interference review is being considered again.

The Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers have both proposed the addition of a booth umpire -- otherwise known as a sky judge -- as an eighth game official. Those two teams also have proposed the addition of a senior technology advisor to the referee to assist the officiating crew.

The competition committee sent a report to teams last month, in which it stated support for further analysis of on-field officials being assisted by officiating personnel who would have access to a video feed. The officiating department is working with on-field officials to figure out how video feeds could assist them. So, even if owners do not pass either of the new proposals outright next week, it is likely a version of some kind of addition to the officiating crew could be tested in the preseason for possible further implementation.

The other intriguing proposal involves providing an alternative to the onside kick, which has largely faded out of the game since changes were made prior to the 2018 season that prohibited kickoff teams from getting a running start. That change was made for safety reasons, but it also made it nearly impossible to successfully execute an onside kick. In the last two seasons, just 10.4 percent of onside kicks were recovered.

There is now some momentum for a proposal from the Philadelphia Eagles -- which has in the past been sniffed at by some as too gimmicky -- which would allow the team that is trailing in the game a way to maintain possession after scoring by successfully converting a fourth-and-15 play from its own 25-yard line. That could be done a maximum of twice per game.

And there is a proposal by the competition committee that would prevent teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running, a loophole the New England Patriots exploited last season against the Jets -- and which Bill Belichick acknowledged at the time would probably be closed by the NFL -- and then which was used by the Tennessee Titans against the Patriots in the playoffs.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter at @judybattista

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