Upon Further Review, NFL Owners Change 6 Rules

Commish also wants longer regular season

Ed Hochuli and other NFL referees can rest easier after team owners passed a rule Wednesday allowing video replays on a loose ball that could be either a fumble or an incomplete pass.

Hochuli famously ruled Denver quarterback Jay Cutler to have thrown an incomplete pass in the final moments of a Week 2 game with San Diego last season. Replays clearly showed it was a fumble that the Chargers recovered, but the play was not part of the review process. Denver kept the ball and won the game seconds later.

Now it is reviewable.

The NFL's competition committee used a similar application as when it added video reviews of down-by-contact plays involving a fumble.

Also, replay now can be used to determine if a loose ball hit the sideline. A Cardinals kickoff in January's NFC championship game was ruled to have gone out of bounds even though it was recovered in bounds by Arizona. Replays showed the ball never hit or crossed the sideline.

The owners eliminated a rekick after an illegal onside kick, awarding the ball immediately to the receiving team.

The draft order for playoff teams was reworked and will be based on where teams were eliminated in the postseason. Last season, the Chargers (8-8) beat the Colts (12-4) in a wild-card game, but San Diego will pick before Indianapolis in next month's draft. The new procedure begins in 2010.

A waiver period during the first two weeks of training camp was established. Owners also reworded when the postseason waiver period begins -- previously it was after the Pro Bowl. In the future, the Super Bowl will be played after the Pro Bowl in some seasons, and the waiver period will begin after the final postseason game.

Finally, on all fumbles and laterals that go out of bounds, the clock will start when the referee signals ready for play.

Also at the meetings, Commissioner Roger Goodell proposed expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games. The commissioner hopes to have a proposal to present to league owners in May.

Goodell said the league has not seriously discussed the subject with its broadcast partners or the players' union, and nothing could be done without a new labor agreement.

The league now plays a 16-game season. A longer schedule, perhaps by 2011, would mean fewer preseason games. Goodell said the league doesn't need four exhibition games anymore.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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