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NFL owners OK experiment with longer extra-point kicks

| Wednesday, March 26, 2014, 10:57 a.m.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Steelers kicker Shaun Suisham kicks the winning field goal as time expires against the Ravens on Sunday, Oct. 20, 2013, at Heinz Field.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Lots of yardage is being gained in the NFL nearly six months before the season starts.

The NFL tacked 5 feet onto the goal-post uprights and 18 yards onto the extra point — at least for two weekends of exhibition games — as the annual league meetings wrapped up Wednesday.

By this time next year, the NFL likely will have made an even bigger change. Two teams will be added to the playoffs, bringing the field to 14 teams, or nearly 44 percent of the league.

The owners discussed but did not vote upon a playoff expansion that appears all but certain to occur in 2015, after a scheduling format for the two extra games is decided.

Coaches, for example, are wary of a short work week that would follow a Monday night playoff game.

“We want to make sure we do it right,” commissioner Roger Goodell said.

The Steelers favor the expansion as long as all division champions continue to retain home-field advantage for at least one playoff game.

NFL owners turned down a number of proposals, including one offered by the Patriots to allow all plays to be reviewable but voted to experiment with a longer extra point during the first two full weekends of preseason games in August.

The ball will be placed at the 20 rather than the 2, increasing the kicking distance to 37 yards on what is the most automatic play in football. Kickers missed only five of 1,267 attempts last season.

Steelers president Art Rooney II doesn't foresee such a dramatic change being adopted because it favors teams that play in warm-weather climates and in domed stadiums, where the kicking surfaces often are much better than in northern-climate stadiums.

“I'd rather see the rule sort of be one that applies more evenly than this,” Rooney said.

Rooney prefers coach Mike Tomlin's idea of putting the ball at the 1 to encourage more 2-point attempts, and the Steelers might formally propose it next year.

“(I'd rather) see more actual plays run than a long field goal, so we will see,” Rooney said.

The goal-post uprights will be 35 feet tall this season, rather than the previous 30, to help officials more accurately rule on field-goal attempts. The league won't allow players to dunk the ball over the crossbar to celebrate touchdowns because it might jar the taller uprights out of place.

The owners also voted to allow possession of a loose ball on the field of play to be reviewed.

Last season, the Steelers blocked a Green Bay field-goal attempt. But after a complicated sequence in which Ryan Clark gained control before tossing a lateral that was batted out of bounds, the Packers ended up with a first down at the 2.

Because it was not reviewable, Tomlin could not challenge the ruling that the Steelers never were in control.

Rooney also said the league will look further at replay, including placing extra cameras along the goal lines, end lines and sidelines to better aid in reviewing plays.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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