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Competition committee focuses on safety, sportsmanship and replay



The NFL Competition Committee is considering having officials eject players for flagrant hits, cracking down on celebrations and taking the next step in instant replay technology.

The committee met last week to consider modifying rules to improve the game. 

If the Competition Committee recommends any rule changes, the owners will meet later this month and vote on those proposals.


Last season the NFL put teeth into its unsportsmanlike conduct foul, where officials ejected a player if they pick up two specific types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. The NFL is looking to make excessive celebration fouls a point of emphasis this coming season. The Competition Committee will propose directing officials to strictly enforce the excessive celebration rules to curb Antonio Brown and Josh Norman-like displays.

Violent hits = ejection?

NFL officials have been very willing to flag violent hits. There is no rule that requires officials to eject a player for violent hits, but an official always has that discretion. Right now in the NCAA, if officials call targeting they will eject the offending player and that player faces a suspension. Now, the Competition Committee will consider mandating an ejection or suspension similar to the college ranks. As always, the devil is in the details as to the specific hits that would call for an ejection. It will be interesting to see if the owners sign off on that rule change.

Next generation of replay?

We could see the end of the referee going under the hood in the coming years. The NFL has dropped all pretext that only the referee rules on a replay challenge. Technology allows Dean Blandino and Alberto Riveron to communicate with the game referee from the officiating command center in New York on game day. The NFL is considering giving the referee a tablet to view the replay and a headset to communicate with New York. The referee going under the hood has become a staple TV picture for almost a generation. It could be going by the wayside. 

Full time referee still discussed but far from implementation

Pundits have debated full-time officials for the last 40-years and it won’t go away any time soon. The Competition Committee once again considered full-time officials last week. This time, the committee discussed making referees full-time. Ed Hochuli is a lawyer. Gene Steratore owns his own business. Ron Torbert is a lawyer. The NFL would have to really increase officials’ salaries to get those officials to give up their day jobs. The idea is that full-time referees would allow for crew consistency. But, will that consistency come at the cost of losing good officials? Expect more discussion and debate in the coming years.

The Competition Committee will put forward any proposed rule changes at this month’s owners meetings. Stay tuned for further updates on potential rule changes.

Mark Schultz is a high school football official, freelance writer and journalist. He first became interested in officiating when he was six years old, was watching a NFL game with his father and asked the fateful question, "Dad, what are those guys in the striped shirts doing?"