NFL rule proposals include adding booth umpire, tech adviser for refs

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The NFL is making plans to experiment in the 2020 preseason with new officiating positions that would be similar to a sky judge.

The experiment would mirror proposals put forth by the Baltimore Ravens and Los Angeles Chargers to create a booth umpire and a senior technology adviser. Each official would have access to video and the ability to either make officiating calls or communicate to the referee based on what they see.

NFL clubs received a list of potential rule changes Thursday, and team owners will be asked to vote on the proposals during a virtual meeting on May 28.

The booth umpire and technology adviser proposals were not endorsed by the competition committee, meaning they are unlikely to be approved as permanent rule changes. Instead, the committee recommended a preseason experiment.

Coaches have been lobbying for additional officiating help for several years, and the league is looking for new ways to improve officiating after its failed one-year experiment of allowing pass interference calls to be reviewed by replay in 2019.

Meanwhile, momentum is growing for another team-proposed rule change: an alternative to the onside kick put forth by the Philadelphia Eagles. Instead of kicking off after a score late in the fourth quarter, a team would have the option for one offensive play from its 25-yard line. It would need to gain at least 15 yards to retain possession.

Owners rejected a similar proposal last year from the Denver Broncos, but the league did try it out during the 2019 Pro Bowl.

Since the start of the 2018 season, when the league instituted new kickoff rules, the recovery rate on onside kicks has been 10.5%. It was 19.5% from 2001 to 2017, according to ESPN Stats & Information.

The competition committee has endorsed two minor rule changes for owners to consider:

  • Expanding defenseless player protection to a returner who has secured possession but hasn't had the opportunity to ward off impending contact

  • Closing a loophole that last season allowed the New England Patriots and Tennessee Titans, among others, to drain the clock by committing multiple dead ball fouls while the clock was running.

Also to be discussed will be making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any extra point attempt.

The Eagles had proposed restoring preseason and regular-season overtime to 15 minutes and implementing rules to minimize the impact of the overtime coin toss, but they have withdrawn the ideas.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.