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NFL OK’s Patriots’ bid to extend goalposts

NFL goalposts will be 35 feet tall next season.

Mike McCarn/AP/File

NFL goalposts will be 35 feet tall next season.

ORLANDO — Only one of Bill Belichick’s four rules proposals ultimately passed on Wednesday before the NFL wrapped up its owners meetings. But the Patriots coach accomplished his mission by getting the conversation started on a few things he would like to see changed.

His one proposal that was passed by a vote of the league’s 32 owners: increasing the height of the goalposts by 5 feet to help officials make an easier determination on whether a field goal is good or wide.

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Only two other rule changes out of 14 proposed were approved: allowing officials to review the recovery of a loose ball in the field of play, and keeping the game clock running after a sack outside of two minutes.

One of Belichick’s proposals was tabled until the next owners meetings in May — planting more cameras on the sidelines to aid officials with replay.

“We told New England that we would definitely look at that,” said Falcons president Rich McKay, chairman of the Competition Committee. “We’ll look at it again with our broadcast partners and how we might be able to accomplish that.”

And two of Belichick’s proposals were outright rejected, to little surprise: moving the extra point back from the 2- to the 25-yard line, and allowing coaches to challenge any play, instead of having a list of plays that can’t be challenged.

Belichick knew his extra point proposal wouldn’t pass, but the NFL will continue to examine how to make it a more competitive play. The NFL will experiment with putting the extra point at the 20-yard line in the first two preseason games this August.

“It’s a new issue; it just came up this offseason,” said Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a Competition Committee member. “And the committee’s concern was to go ahead and effect some change in the rule without having the opportunity to go through those unintended consequences.

“We all feel like we need to do something; we’re just not quite sure what we’re going to do with it yet.”

Fisher said that fewer than 50 percent of the league’s coaches voted to allow all plays to be challenged. The Redskins’ proposal to allow personal foul penalties to be challenged also didn’t pass.

However, the league did pass one significant initiative for the 2014 season — allowing referees to consult with the league’s officiating department during challenges to speed up the process and ensure the correct call is made.

It won’t quite be a centralized instant replay system like the NHL’s, but it’s certainly a step in that direction.

“We expect it to speed up the process and be more efficient,” said Dean Blandino, head of officiating. “We can communicate with the referee immediately.

“As soon as he’s done making his announcement, we can start that conversation as to what we’re going to look at, what he’s going to see, so there isn’t that delay of getting over to the monitor, putting the headset on, and having a 45-second discussion.

“So we think it will be more efficient, accurate, and consistent.”

Blandino said Al Riveron and other members of the officiating department will be involved with the replay consultations “so we can adjudicate multiple replays that happen at the same time.”

On Tuesday, the NFL outlawed dunking the football over the goalpost as a touchdown celebration. McKay said the ban was necessary to avoid knocking the goalposts off-kilter, as the Saints’ Jimmy Graham did against the Falcons last season, and also ties in to the new rule about the taller goalposts.

“When you add 5 feet to the top and make them even heavier, I think we were concerned about how it would impact the game from a competitive standpoint,” McKay said.

Other proposals that failed: moving the kickoff line to the 40-yard line, eliminating the training-camp roster cutdown to 75 players, and allowing an unlimited number of players to return from injured reserve to the active roster.

Other proposals that were tabled until May: abolishing overtime in the preseason, expanding the practice squad from eight to 10 players and active rosters on Thursday and Saturday games from 46 to 49 players, and allowing retractable-dome teams to open their roof at halftime.

Commissioner Roger Goodell also addressed a handful of topics, most notably the possibility of expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams and the future of cold-weather Super Bowls.

Goodell said this year’s New York/New Jersey Super Bowl “was very positive,” and it opens the door for non-traditional cities such as Boston, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Denver to enter Super Bowl bidding.

The next three games will be held in Phoenix, San Francisco, and Houston, and the 2018 game will be awarded in May to either Minneapolis, Indianapolis, or New Orleans.

The owners didn’t officially vote on expanding the playoffs, and while Goodell said “it’s not out of the question” that the field will be expanded for this upcoming season, it doesn’t appear likely until the 2015 season at the earliest. Goodell said the NFL and the Players Association are scheduled to talk about it at a meeting April 8.

“I think there was a tremendous amount of interest in this, possibly to the point of support, but there are also things we still want to make sure we do well with it,” Goodell said.

“We believe competitively it could make our races toward the end of the season even more exciting, which is great for fans, [but] we still want to do some additional work.”

Ben Volin can be reached at ben.volin@globe.com.
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