NFL streamlines replay review, bans "leapers"

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PHOENIX – The NFL's replay system will have a new look next season. And upon further review, teams won't have to look for ways to guard against superhuman but super-dangerous attempts to block kicks.

Clubs voted Tuesday to change the way its replay review are carried out, eliminating referees heading to the sideline to go "under the hood" in favor of utilizing technology to streamline the process. Under changes approved at the NFL Annual Meeting, the referee will be provided with a handheld tablet on the field while the NFL's replay central in New York – headed by senior vice president of officiating Dean Blandino – will make the final determination in concert with the referee.

One sometimes tricky call for the referee has been made easier by the league, which outlawed a "leaper" bounding over the top of the offensive line in an attempt to block a kick. Such a maneuver was previously allowed if the player made no physical contact with the kicking team but was deemed too much of a safety risk.

In the Panthers' divisional playoff loss at Seattle to end the 2014 season, Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor famously (almost) pulled it off twice – getting a second chance because of a Panthers penalty after he failed to finish it off with a kick block, then contributing to a miss with a successful leap before being called for running into the kicker.

NFL teams also approved for a second year placing the ball at the 25-yard line after touchbacks on kickoffs and permanently installed a rule added last year that disqualifies a player for two unsportmanlike conduct violations of a certain type over the course of the game.

Those rules were adopted with player safety in mind, as was an addition to the "defenseless player" protection for receivers running routes and stricter limits on crackback blocks by a player in motion. Teams considered cutting the overtime period from 15 minutes to 10 for regular season and preseason games for the sake of player well-being but didn't ratify the change.

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