Over the last several days, NFL officials came to training camp to brief the Panthers players and coaches on the league’s new rules and points of emphasis for 2019.
This season, coaches will be able to review offensive and defensive pass interference penalties, including the absence of a penalty, within the normal cadence of coach review. The booth will be able to review pass interference within the final two minutes.
After the notoriety of the no-call of pass interference in the NFC Championship game involving New Orleans and Los Angeles, will officials look at pass interference differently knowing that coaches can challenge it?
“We will not,” referee Alex Kemp told the media on Thursday. “It happens so fast on the field, we can’t change the way that we officiate. We just know that it’s now a reviewable play. The coach might challenge and then we will look at it. We will make the call and then the coach can challenge, and if it’s under two minutes then the booth will review it.”
The league has also changed the way ejections are handled.
“Last year, if there was a flag down and we decided not to eject a player because we decided it was a football play, the office in New York couldn’t come in and eject the player,” Kemp said. “They could only come in and eject a player if there was a flag and someone did something non-football related. This year, they can. They can make the determination from New York. We can make it on the field and they can tell us to do it or not do it and overrule us. New York will review any ejection. We might say that we’ve got a big hit and we aren’t sure if it warrants ejection, then let them take care of it.”
This year, the league’s points of emphasis include penalizing any player who lowers his helmet to initiate contact, whether on offense, defense or even away from the ball. They will also pay attention to potential holding calls along the offensive line on the backside of running plays.
Lowering the helmet calls will be especially apparent during the preseason as players adjust to that rule. The players have been instructed that a lowered helmet to initiate contact results in a penalty even if it isn’t helmet to helmet contact, but helmet to body contact.
For example, T.J. Watt’s hit on Cam Newton's body and shoulder last season at Pittsburgh would be penalized in 2019.
Other rule changes include:
-Blindside block rule expanded to include all forcible contact as illegal
-Restrictions on leapers during kicks
-Last year’s new kickoff rules have been made permanent after the one-year trial period
-Players not in uniform cannot enter the field to celebrate a play