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2018 rule changes

Centralized replay could take active role in ejecting, un-ejecting players next year

NFL instant replay could take a more active role in ruling on player ejections.



Look for the NFL centralized replay, under senior vice president of officiating Al Riveron, to take a more active role in ejecting and un-ejecting players in the 2018 season.

Update: NFL owners voted on the proposal in Atlanta and was passed on May 22.

The idea of un-ejecting a player actually has precedent in the NCAA ranks. Under college rules, targeting fouls carry an automatic ejection. But before the officials ban the player for the rest of the game, instant replay takes a look at the very tough judgement call. Sometimes instant replay reverses the targeting call and the player can stay in the game.

What would be the scenario for Riveron and company at centralized replay to un-eject a player? I would envision a scenario where the official might get the wrong number of an ejected player, or they could deem that an unnecessary roughness foul is not ejection worthy. 

The more intriguing scenario is for centralized replay to step in and call on the officials to eject a player, when the crew has called a personal foul with no disqualification. Never before has a football replay official at any level stepped in and ordered the on-field crew to disqualify a player. Under the proposal, Riveron would review the foul for an ejection before the next play. 

On the whole, I do not like to see instant replay expanded. But, in rare instances, replay ordering an ejection can make for a more just outcome. If the officials eject the retaliating player, replay could also step in and eject the instigator.

This proposal is tailor-made for a play like last year, when the officials flagged, but did not eject Patriots’ tight end, Rob Gronkowski, for unnecessary roughness on Tre’Davious White. White went into concussion protocol and did not return to the game.

If owners adopt instant replay having a hand in ejecting and un-ejecting I honestly don’t know how it will impact the on-field officials. Will the crews be more liberal in handing out ejections, knowing Riveron can undo an error? Or will the officials be loathe to eject anybody and just let Riveron be the “bad cop?” 

This will be very interesting to watch.

Summary of rule changes

  • Insert the centralized replay person to call for a review: “A Replay Review will be initiated by a member of the NFL’s Officiating department from a location in the League office or a Replay Official from a Replay Booth…”. This allows the centralized replay person to initiate any legal review, not just ejections
  • Add disqualification of any player as a reviewable play
  • Plays that are reviewed for ejections will only focus on the ejection aspect, meaning that any other part of the play must be challenged or reviewed separately as if the ejection review doesn’t take place
  • The centralized replay person will not consult with the referee on ejections

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?"