Sports Football

SUPER BOWL

NFL mulling whether to streamline rulebook, and readdressing controversial rules

John Kryk

By John Kryk, Toronto Sun

NFL referee John Parry watches a replay during the Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

NFL referee John Parry watches a replay during the Pro Bowl at University of Phoenix Stadium on Sunday, Jan. 25, 2015. (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)

PHOENIX - 

How to inflate footballs, Dez Bryant's non-catch, and whether to expand replay to include pass interference.

Those and other controversial NFL rules and protocols of recent weeks and months will be heavily scrutinized this off-season by the league's competition committee.

So said the NFL's executive vice-president of football operations, Troy Vincent, and vice-president of officiating Dean Blandino at a news conference on Thursday at the Super Bowl XLIX media centre.

"Once we get through this Sunday, (Blandino) and I will be sitting down with ... the rest of the staff about how do we reduce the rulebook?" Vincent said.

"How do we become a little bit more clear? And also by reducing that, we think it will give the officials a better opportunity to call the game ... I think that's one of our priorities going into the off-season."

Just about everything is up for reconsideration, Blandino said.

Perhaps the most controversial proposition within the league -- but one that surely would be heartily welcomed by fans -- is expanding video reviews to include judgment calls. Especially pass interference.

And Blandino said that's going to be discussed over the next month-and-a-half by the league's competition committee, a group of prominent coaches and team executives who recommend rulebook changes to the owners.

"Absolutely," he said. "We've had discussions going back to last off-season talking about expanding replay, and adding to the list of reviewable plays.

"I think it's something that as the technology has improved -- now we have high-definition and super slo-mo and 4K, all of that technology -- it begs the question, can we eliminate some of the mistakes that happen during the game?

"We have several proposals from clubs to expand replay, and that will be a topic for the competition committee to discuss."

The committee meets before, during and after the Scouting Combine in Indianapolis (Feb. 17-23 this year) to mull rule and bylaw changes.

The league has long been resistant to make judgment calls -- such as pass interference or holding -- reviewable.

"(They're) not as simple as saying the football hit the ground, or the foot stepped out of bounds," Blandino said.

"I don't know if the ability to watch it again and again will eliminate some of the mistakes that are made. I think that's something that officials on the field have to officiate, and we're working to improve in that area. And when you slow something down, it does change the standard."

The Detroit Lions -- victims of a non-call on an obvious pass interference late in their NFC wild-card playoff loss at Dallas earlier this month -- are one of the teams seeking to expand replay in this manner, Blandino confirmed.

The nicknamed "Calvin Johnson" rule -- that requires a receiver to "complete the catch to the ground" to count as a reception -- is under inferno, after replay overturned Dez Bryant's seemingly spectacular catch on a 4th-and-2 bomb to the Green Bay one-yard line late in the Cowboys' loss at Lambeau Field three weeks ago.

Blandino stood by the overturn on Thursday, even though it appeared Bryant had made the requisite additional "football acts" upon snaring the ball -- by getting three feet down and at the same time twisting and extending his arms, with ball in hand, to try to reach the end zone on his way to the ground.

But no.

"When you're talking about the process of the catch, it doesn't matter how many steps he takes," Blandino said. "He has to maintain control of the football throughout the action of contacting the ground ...

"In order for it to be a football move, a football act, he has to gather himself and lunge and dive for the goal line. It has to be overt. It has to be obvious. And when you watch that play at full speed, he's going to the ground, he's (still) trying to maintain possession of it. He doesn't maintain possession as he hits the ground.

"That's a consistent application of (the rule)."

But that rule will be looked at thoroughly.

"I anticipate us looking at a lot of video in the next month or so," Blandino said.

Meantime, regarding Deflate-gate, both Vincent and Blandino said the manner in which footballs are inflated, to what pressure, how they are handled and inspected by whom both before and during games, is up for review as well.

 

NFL consults with CFL on pass-interference reviews

The NFL has been in touch with the CFL about how video reviews for pass-interference calls went over in 2014.

Dean Blandino, the NFL's vice-president of officiating, told QMI Agency after Thursday's football-operations news conference here at Super Bowl XLIX that he has talked with his counterpart north of the border about the matter of adding PI calls to video reviews.

"Yeah, I talked to Glen Johnson, who is (the CFL's) head of officiating, and we've had conversations," Blandino said. "And he has sent me the video, because it's something that we'll review with our committee.

"That's something we can take and say, 'Hey, that's something they're looking at it and let's review.'"

According to QMI Agency colleague Kirk Penton, CFL coaches challenged 55 pass-interference calls or non-calls in the 18-game 2014 season. Overturns occurred 17 times, or 31% of the time.

Coaches, players, executives and fans all seemed to be happy with the results.

"Yeah," Blandino said. "They seem to. I think the coaches appreciated the ability to at least challenge those calls."

 

North vs. South in Super Bowl XLIX

You wouldn't be too far off renaming Super Bowl XLIX the Blue-Grey Bowl. Or the North-South Classic.

On their 53-man roster, the Seattle Seahawks have just eight players who attended universities in the traditional "North": two in Northeast and just six in the Midwest.

Conversely, 31 Seahawks were schooled in the traditional "South": 21 in the Southeast, 10 in the Southwest. That's as south as south gets, y'all.

The other Seahawks were schooled as follows: 13 in the Far West or West Coast and one (punter/holder Jon Ryan) in Canada, at the University of Regina.

By stark contrast, the New England Patriots have on their roster 24 players who attended college in either the Midwest (14) or Northeast (nine), and only 14 in the Southeast and six in the Southwest -- for 20 total from the traditional "South."

Nine Patriots attended U in the Far West or West.

Is it all just a crazy coincidence, or is it by some design?

I read off these numbers to Patriots head coach Bill Belichick at his Thursday morning news conference and he summarily dismissed any thoughts that it was planned out.

"I would have had no idea those numbers you just read off, on whether ours or theirs," Belichick said. "Honestly, haven't really given it any thought. Sorry."

Seahawks GM John Schneider seemed similarly surprised by the contrast, but offered this possible reason at least for New England's abnormally high amount of Northerners in this day and age when the majority of draft picks come from the South.

"I think that's coincidence," he said at Super Bowl XLIX Media Day. "Obviously, where they are located, there are a ton of schools out there. Just sheer numbers, they're going to see (them more). Everybody gets to the same amount of schools. But they just have that closer exposure to those guys, probably."

 

EJ Manuel has 'a lot' of work to do -- Rex Ryan

Rex Ryan on Thursday said Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel has "a lot" of work to do on his fundamentals.

The new Bills head coach added that his new quarterbacks coach David Lee -- who worked in Buffalo under Chan Gailey in his last season as Bills head coach just three years ago -- will help the third-year passer with his mechanics.

"We're going to do everything we can to get him to play at a high level," Ryan told a small group of reporters in the "Radio Row" setup of the Super Bowl XLIX media centre.

"I think (Lee) does a tremendous job, especially in the fundamental part of the game. I think there's where EJ can improve a lot."

Ryan repeated what he said at his introductory news conference in Orchard Park earlier this month in saying that the starting Bills QB job is not Manuel's, and that the club will bring in competition for the 2013 first-round draft pick.

"I think what we're going to do is explore every opportunity out there," Ryan said. "So it's not just, you know, do we want EJ Manuel -- will he be given the opportunity to win the job? Of course he will ... "But we're going to exhaust every resource we can, in that we'll look at free agents, we'll look at the draft, we'll look at anything. So to say that he's definitely going to be the guy -- it's way too early to say that."

Lee can't begin working with Manuel until April, per the NFL's collective bargaining agreement with players. So for two more months, Manuel will probably work with his personal off-season throwing-mechanics guru.

I asked Ryan if that's frustrating.

"Naw, that's just the way the league is. I know he's going to be working, there's no question about him. Anyone who knows anything about EJ, he's an outstanding young man and he wants it.

"I think that's important, and I'm sure he can't for David Lee to get a hold of him, and at the appropriate time that will happen."

Ryan was asked for his thoughts on Deflate-gate. Although you know he has 'em, he didn't go there.

"I think it's unfortunate that this takes away -- this is the biggest stage there is, and here we're talking about something like that," Ryan said. "It is a black eye to the league, and the league will handle it as they see fit. (New England is) a great football team. They earned the right to get here, and same with Seattle."

john.kryk@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/JohnKryk

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