BOCA RATON, Fla. — NFL owners approved a series of minor rule changes Tuesday and saved their more difficult decisions for Wednesday, the final day of their annual meetings.
Among the approved rules was the elimination of all chop blocks, an expansion of the horse collar rule to include instances in which defenders grab the nameplate of the jersey and a permanent approval of the 15-yard line as the line of scrimmage for extra points.
Left unaddressed, at least for Tuesday, is a proposal that calls for a player to be automatically ejected if he commits two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in one game. The league will also continue discussions on a proposal to move the touchback after kickoffs to the 25-yard line, and there was no vote Tuesday on several proposals to expand instant replay. Further discussions will take place Wednesday, and a vote on one or several of them could take place before owners adjourn at midday.
Several coaches expressed concern about the automatic ejection rule during morning deliberations, according to New York Giants owner John Mara.
“They worry it will lead to more players being ejected,” Mara said. “But we don’t look at it that way. I think the effect it will have will be, if a player has one, then that might make him think about it before mouthing off to an opponent again in the same game.”
Mara added: “I think we have a sportsmanship problem that we have to deal with. This is one option for dealing with it, and it’s not dead yet.”
At the AFC coaches breakfast earlier Tuesday morning, Houston Texans coach Bill O’Brien said he worried about the possibility of opposing teams baiting players after they have been called for one unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
“Let’s just say one of your best players is going to get an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty,” O’Brien said. “Is he going to become a target? Meaning, are they going to go after this guy to try to get him to do something that he gets kicked out of the game? That would be my concern about it, but I’m going to do what they tell me to do.”
Also at the coaches breakfast, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh passionately defended his team’s proposal to expand replay to include all rulings but a handful of judgment calls. No action was taken on it Tuesday.
“There were five games last year that were determined by nonreviewable calls,” Harbaugh said. “[They] determined the outcome of the game. The fans don’t understand that. They don’t want to look at it and see the official make a mistake [that] everyone saw in real time that the league said, ‘It’s not reviewable. We can’t fix that.’ What do you mean, we can’t fix it? We can’t fix that when we decide not to be able to fix it. We can fix it. Just fix it.”
ESPN New York Giants reporter Dan Graziano contributed to this story.