NFL team owners pass again on changing onside kick rule

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New York (AFP)

NFL team owners decided Thursday against a proposal that would allow clubs an alternative to onside kick attempts to retain possession in a virtual meeting to consider rule changes.

The plan was set aside for further future discussion, the second year in a row owners dismissed an idea to allow a fourth-down and 15-yards-to-gain play instead of an onside kick attempt.

The NFL competition committee did not endorse the plan, proposed by the Philadelphia Eagles, nor did it back last year's similar idea.

Under the plan, coaches could have chosen to have the team attempt one untimed down from their own 25-yard line to gain 15 yards in hopes of keeping possession of the ball. If the play failed, the opposing team would get the ball wherever the play ended.

The idea came after 2018 rule changes on kickoff plays to make them safer led to a major reduction in successful onside kick recoveries. The ball was recovered by the kicking team 10.5% of the time the past two years compared to 16.3% the prior five seasons.

The league has sought a way to improve the odds for a trailing team to keep the ball late in games, but decided against such a drastic change.

Any successful proposal requires the support of at least 24 of 32 team owners.

A prior proposal for a "Sky Judge" official in a stadium booth with access to video replays was withdrawn before it could be considered by owners, although owners are considering expanding communication between the review booth and game officials during pre-season contests.

Some rule changes were approved by team owners, including expanding automatic replay reviews for all scoring plays and turnovers that are negated by fouls as well as touchdown conversions.

They expanded protections for defenseless players to kick or punt returners who has possession of the ball but has not had time to avoid or protect himself from an onrushing opponent.

Teams were also banned from game clock manipulation through committing multiple dead-ball fouls with the clock running. The move eliminates a team being able to drain time off the clock while in punt formation with more than five minutes remaining, a move notably used by New England and Tennessee last season.