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Tougher PATs satisfy NFL committee; chop blocks, ejections also debated

| Thursday, March 17, 2016, 11:18 p.m.
Chaz Palla | Tribune-Review
Steelers kicker Chris Boswell converted 26 of 27 extra points last season when the NFL experimented with moving the conversion to the 15-yard line.

NEW YORK — The NFL's powerful competition committee is recommending making permanent extra-point kick snaps from the 15-yard line, eliminating all chop blocks and ejecting a player for twice receiving certain unsportsmanlike conduct penalties in a game.

When NFL owners meet next week in Florida, they also will consider such proposals as moving the line of scrimmage up 5 yards to the 25 on kickoff touchbacks, allowing coaches and players to use video rather than just photos on sideline tablets and expanding the penalties on horse-collar tackles to cover the nameplate on the uniform.

Among the rule proposals teams will present Monday through Wednesday are several involving video review: allowing three coaches' challenges instead of two even when one challenge fails, expanding what can be challenged to include everything but turnovers and scores and eliminating overtime in preseason games.

Not being altered is what constitutes a catch, a subject that often infuriates players and fans but is not part of any proposals this year.

Instead, according to Troy Vincent, the league's football operations chief, the emphasis will be on education and enforcement of the three current catch rule considerations: gaining possession, getting two feet down inbounds and player safety.

After commissioner Roger Goodell suggested during Super Bowl week that player ejections for two egregious fouls would be considered, the committee is suggesting specific unsportsmanlike conduct penalties could lead to expulsions. Those are:

• Throwing a punch or a forearm or kicking at an opponent, even though no contact is made.

• Using abusive, threatening or insulting language or gestures to opponents, teammates, officials or representatives of the league.

• Using baiting or taunting acts or words that engender ill will between teams.

Under such changes, Giants receiver Odell Beckham Jr. wouldn't automatically have been ejected despite drawing three unnecessary roughness calls in scuffles with Panthers All-Pro cornerback Josh Norman late last season.

But officials don't need to judge fouls as flagrant for an automatic disqualification. And it won't necessarily take two fouls for a player to be tossed.

“We do believe officials should be empowered and should not feel ejection is not an appropriate remedy ... when there is a flagrant foul,” said committee co-chairman Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons.

The league was so satisfied with moving the line of scrimmage on PAT kicks to the 15 that the committee wants to remove the temporary tag. The rate of success dropped from 99.3 percent to 94.2 percent in 2015, with 71 misses during the regular season. A miss by New England All-Pro Stephen Gostkowski in the AFC championship game was costly in the Patriots' loss.

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