Extra ref, onside kick rule among five changes NFL owners considering

Rams' Nickell Robey-Coleman and Saints' Tommylee Lewis
When the Rams’ Nickell Robey-Coleman was not flagged for interference on the Saints’ Tommylee Lewis in the NFC Championship game in 2019, it led the NFL to add instant replay challenges for pass interference on a one-year trial basis.
(Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times)

The NFL is considering an extra set of eyes in the sky, and a change to onside kicks that some people might see as gimmicky.

Those are two of the five rules proposals team owners will vote on during a conference call scheduled for next Thursday.

The Philadelphia Eagles have proposed an alternative to the onside kick, which has become far more difficult to successfully execute thanks to new configuration regulations that promote health and safety. The proposal would allow a trailing team to skip the kick and instead opt to go for it on fourth-and-15 from its 25. That’s similar to a rule tried in the short-lived Alliance of American Football.

The Eagles also have proposed making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful try attempt.

The Chargers and Baltimore Ravens have teamed to present two proposals, one of which would add a “booth umpire” as an eighth game official to the officiating crew. The teams also have proposed adding a senior technology advisor to the referee to assist the crew.


The Miami Dolphins have proposed giving the defense the option for the game clock to start on the referee’s signal if that defense declines an offensive penalty that occurs late in either half. That would make it harder for offenses to manipulate the clock by intentionally committing penalties.

As the Chargers’ new starting quarterback, Tyrod Taylor will need time to develop a connection with his receivers. The COVID-19 pandemic has cut into the opportunity to do that.

The competition committee will present two proposals of its own:

  • Expanding defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but who has not had time to avoid or ward off impending contact by an opponent.
  • Preventing teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running.

The competition committee has recommended not renewing the use of video reviews of pass interference. That rule, temporarily put in place last season in the wake of uproar from a Rams-Saints playoff game in the 2018 season, was a flop last season. Owners are expected to officially make it a one-and-done rule.

NFL owners voted unanimously to provide Rams owner Stan Kroenke an additional $500 million in financing, along with an extended period to pay it back.