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NFL pass interference penalty challenges: More tweaks coming?

NFL owners who have gathered this week at the Spring League Meeting in Biscayne, Florida, will be asked to consider a change to overtime and the possibility of tweaking the new rule to allow challenges of pass interference penalties.

The meeting in Miami is likely to produce fewer surprises than the annual gathering in March, at which owners approved a rule that represented a seismic philosophical shift -- allowing coaches to challenge pass interference calls and non-calls. Now they will be asked to allow a change to a rule before it's even been used.

The rule approved in March allowed coaches to challenge pass interference throughout the game, except for the final two minutes of each half. In the final two minutes, as is the case with other replay reviews, officials in the booth would be the only ones allowed to stop the game to review whether pass interference was correctly called or should have been called. After meetings between game officials and each team's coaches -- a regular part of every offseason -- there is a sentiment that it might be better to allow coaches to challenge pass interference throughout the game. That would allow for more uniformity in the standard for review because the same person -- the coach -- would have to decide if a play should be reviewed, rather than replay officials potentially having a different standard for stopping the game for a review in the final two minutes.

There is also concern that if replay officials control the reviews in the final two minutes, it could lead to many more stoppages of play, as officials in the booth stop the game to determine whether a play should be reviewed at the officiating headquarters in New York. That could be especially problematic during the early Sunday afternoon game window, when many games are played at the same time, potentially slowing down the review in New York. There was so much concern about how often a game might be stopped in the final two minutes that one high-ranking league official speculated several weeks ago that the new rule to allow challenges of pass interference might last only one season, because nobody would be happy with constant stoppages at the ends of games.

Owners will not be asked to change the rule in Miami. Rather, they will be asked to vote to allow the Competition Committee to change the rule without another vote of the full ownership if they think it is necessary after meetings with teams are complete. The unusual arrangement is likely the outgrowth of what the NFL went through last year, when it created the new helmet rule and then struggled with how it was officiated in the early weeks. There was no mechanism in place to allow the league to tweak the rule to clarify it.

Less likely to receive approval is the Kansas City Chiefs' proposal to change overtime. The Chiefs, who lost to the Patriots in overtime of the AFC Championship Game without Patrick Mahomes ever touching the ball, proposed a rule in March that would guarantee each team a possession in overtime of regular and postseason games. But the proposal had little support at the annual meeting and it was tabled. Now it is back, although it has not been amended. Owners could change it on the floor of their meeting, but one high-ranking NFL official said Thursday night he thinks it is more likely the proposal will be tabled again.

The league is also expected to make a player safety recommendation to teams to eliminate certain drills -- like the Oklahoma drill -- frequently used by linemen during training camps. The recommendation springs from a recent meeting of coaches, game officials and league executives that was focused on how to reduce risk to linemen and drive down the number of concussions during the first weeks of training camp, when the concussion rate has remained stubbornly steady even while the number of concussions suffered during the rest of the season dropped markedly last season.

Also at the meeting, the NFL is expected to award at least one, and possibly more, future drafts. Las Vegas hosts the draft next year.

Follow Judy Battista on Twitter @judybattista.

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