NFL’s excess timeout rule likely to be tweaked

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News
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Boca Raton, Fla. — The Lions didn’t submit any proposals for rule changes at this year’s annual owners’ meetings, but one play from their 2015 season could result in a new rule.

In Week 15 last season, Lions safety James Ihedigbo called a timeout before the end of the first half even though the team didn’t have any remaining. The officials stopped the play, announced that the Lions didn’t have a timeout and then proceeded with the play without penalty.

Under the rule, the officials are supposed to ignore a timeout call from a team that has already used them, which was the error in that game.

“The committee felt that was not an equitable result, and that will be a delay-of-game foul when the official grants a timeout,” Dean Blandino, the NFL’s vice president of officiating, said Monday. “The mechanic is not to grant a timeout and not stop the game, so that will continue to be the mechanic. But if there is a situation where we grant it, there will be a penalty associated with that.”

Blandino and Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons, held a competition committee news conference Monday to discuss the potential rule changes that owners will vote on Wednesday.

Had the rule proposal been in place last year, the Lions would’ve been penalized for delay of game even though officials weren’t supposed to grant the timeout.

Among the other topics discussed Monday were the possibility of increasing the difficulty of field goals in the future. McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said the league was glad that last year’s change moving extra point snaps to the 15-yard line changed a sure thing to a meaningful play, but with teams making more than 95 percent of field goals inside 40 yards, field goals will be a future topic.

McKay also said Blandino and his staff will look into pre-snap movement of offensive linemen. The league had 164 neutral zone infractions in 2015, a significant jump from past years likely related to the increased use of silent snap counts.

The NFL also hopes to prohibit chop blocks as a safety measure.

Overall, though, the competition committee was happy with the 2015 product as the average margin of victory, 11.06 points, was the lowest since 1995, McKay said.

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