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NFL embraces zero, but passes on roughing the passer reviews

Roughing the passer calls, as Mack Wilson received for his hit on Jared Goff in October, remain controversial, but won't be reviewable.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

There will be no assist from the replay booth when it comes to the NFL’s roughing the passer rule.

The league’s 32 teams declined to adopt a proposal from the Los Angeles Rams that would have allowed coaches to ask for a replay booth review of the often-controversial call. It was one of several potential changes discussed at the league’s annual meetings on Tuesday in Phoenix.

Rich McKay — the NFL’s Competition Committee chairman — said the league’s brief 2019 experiment that allowed replay booth review of pass interference calls weighed heavily in the process. The rule was reversed in 2020 and highlighted the tricky nature of reviewing judgment calls on the field.


“There are a lot of issues that go into it,” said McKay, who is also the Atlanta Falcons CEO. “It is a dramatic and almost drastic change of officiating, taking it from the field, up to the booth.

“It wasn’t a long discussion and then we voted and it did not pass.”

The list of changes on Tuesday was relatively minor. Among them: Tightening rules on helmet blows by eliminating the “butt, ram, spear” language that McKay said allowed several players to escape fines.

Also, most NFL players now have a new choice when selecting their jersey number — zero. All players — excluding offensive and defensive linemen — can now select No. 0 if they choose. Offensive linemen are still limited to the numbers between 50 and 79 while defensive linemen can select any number from 50 to 79 or 90 to 99.

New Jaguars receiver Calvin Ridley announced he would be among those who would wear No. 0 next season.

One of the more interesting rules suggestions was tabled. The Eagles had submitted a proposal that would permit a team to maintain possession of the ball after a score by substituting one offensive play — a fourth-and-20 attempt from the kicking team’s 20-yard line — in lieu of an onside kickoff attempt.


“There’s not an appetite, yet, to have the onside kick go away,” McKay said. “I think what people would rather talk about is ways to get the rate of recovery up.”

McKay said that historically, onside kicks have about a 13-14 percent success rate, but that number was down to 4 percent during the 2022 season.

Also of note: The use of the guardian cap — a padded addition that fits over a regular football helmet — will be expanded during the preseason to include running backs and fullbacks. Last season, offensive and defensive linemen, linebackers, and tight ends used the cap.

The cap’s use will also be expanded to the regular season during practices that include contact.

Jeff Miller — the NFL’s Executive Vice President of Communications — said concussions were down 52 percent for the position groups that used the cap last season when compared to the previous three-year average of the same groups.

Washington, Snyder have two $6 billion bids

Dan Snyder’s departure from the NFL is moving closer to reality. A group led by Josh Harris and Mitchell Rales, and another group led by Canadian billionaire Steve Apostolopoulos, have formally submitted fully financed bids for the NFL’s Washington Commanders, according to a person with knowledge of the situation.

Two people confirmed the bid from Harris, whose group includes basketball Hall of Famer Magic Johnson. Houston Rockets owner Tilman Fertitta also has been in the running.


It appears that Dan Snyder's time in charge of the Commanders is nearing an end.Alex Brandon/Associated Press

ESPN reported both bids came in at Snyder’s $6 billion asking price. Snyder had yet to accept an offer when the league’s finance committee met Monday, so his future wasn’t openly discussed. That quickly changed in less than 24 hours.

Harris, who owns the NBA’s Philadelphia 76ers and NHL’s New Jersey Devils, brought on Rales, a billionaire who also grew up in Maryland, earlier this year. Johnson, who has ownership experience with Major League Baseball’s Los Angeles Dodgers and others, later joined the group.

Apostolopoulos is a Toronto native who went to Harvard and is the founder of a private equity venture company.

Three-quarters of the owners would need to approve the sale. A vote could take place at the league meetings in May in Minnesota if Snyder accepts an offer soon, though it’s more likely the process will take longer to finalize with both groups involving several owners.

Last fall, with multiple investigations ongoing into the team’s workplace culture and finances, Snyder and his wife hired a firm to explore selling part or all of the team. That decision came two weeks after Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said there was “merit to remove” Snyder, which would take an unprecedented vote of 24 of the other 31 owners.

Selling the team would avoid going down that road, though Snyder has angered some of his colleagues by demanding that owners and the league indemnify him against future legal liability and costs if he sells the team, a person told the AP.


NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday even if Snyder sells the franchise before an investigation into his organization’s conduct can be complete, any report will be made public.

Flex schedule not coming to Thursdays

The NFL will not move to a flexible scheduling model for Thursday night games — at least for now. It has explored a method to adjust its Thursday schedule as the season progressed, giving teams a 15-day notice that their upcoming game would be moved from the weekend to Thursday.

“These national windows are for clubs who are playing well,” said Brian Rolapp, the league’s chief media and business officer. “We want to put the best teams in the best windows.”

Rolapp said the flex proposal could come up again in May for a vote.

The group did pass a resolution that allows teams to play two Thursday games each season on short weeks.

LaFleur preaches patience

Green Bay Packers coach Matt LaFleur is preaching patience as he prepares for the likelihood of having Jordan Love rather than Aaron Rodgers as his starting quarterback.

Rodgers, 39, has indicated he intends to play for the New York Jets in 2023. Although Rodgers remains under contract with Green Bay, the Packers and Jets are negotiating on a potential trade that would send the four-time MVP to New York.

That would cause the Packers to turn to Love, who has made just one career start since the Packers traded up to select him out of Utah State with the 26th overall pick in 2020. LaFleur cited Love’s inexperience while telling reporters that “we’ve all got to kind of temper our expectations for him.”


It looks like Matt LaFleur and Jordan Love will get the chance to work together this season as coach and starting quarterback.Jeffrey Phelps/Associated Press

“Certainly I think we’re fooling ourselves if we think he’s going to go out there and perform at a level to the likes of what Aaron Rodgers [has done],” LaFleur said. “This guy is a once-in-a-lifetime, a generational talent. And I don’t think it necessarily started that way when he first started, you know. But he progressed into that. Like I said, it’s going to be a progression.

“Hopefully we can surround him with enough people to help him perform at the best of his ability, and then we’ve got to do a great job as a coaching staff.”