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NFL committee to propose changes to kickoff rule

Modifications to instant replay and stiffer penalties for illegal hits also will be on the agenda at meetings next week.

March 16, 2011|By Sam Farmer

The labor fight is the NFL's focus these days, but the league is actually thinking about football too.

The competition committee will convene at the owners meetings in New Orleans next week and will recommend changes on kickoffs and instant replay, as well as ramping up the penalties for illegal hits.

The committee will propose moving the kickoff up from the 30-yard line to the 35, and bringing a touchback out to the 25, as opposed to the 20. That would reduce the number of kickoff returns, for safety reasons, as the league has determined there are too many concussions and major injuries on those plays.

"We feel both need addressing," said Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee. "We watched a lot of film and it is a play that we just think needs modification."

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Under the instant-replay proposal, all scoring plays would be reviewable — offensive touchdowns, field goals and safeties. Also, the number of challenges a coach could make would go from three to two.

The third challenge, McKay said, "hasn't been used very much at all in the last four years, and we felt that we were taking so many plays away from the coaches and not putting them in the position of needing to challenge that we'd make that revision."

The NFL also will be more aggressive in suspending players next season for flagrant illegal hits. There were no suspensions for those in 2010, even though the league was more vigilant about policing them and handing out fines.

"Frankly, now that notice has been given, players and coaches and clubs are very aware of what the emphasis is and we won't have that hesitation," said Ray Anderson, the NFL's executive vice president of football operations.

"Everyone will be very clearly on notice now that a suspension is very viable for us and we will exercise it."

sam.farmer@latimes.com

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