INDIANAPOLIS — NFL competition committee members remain skeptical of pass interference review. But after two days of meetings at the scouting combine, they are not yet ready to recommend an end to the one-year experimental rule.
“Overall the results were not great,” Green Bay Packers president/CEO Mark Murphy said Monday. “And I think it really is putting the New York [officiating] office in a very difficult position. … But it’s still pretty early [and] we’re looking at different options.”
Committee members left last year’s combine largely opposed to calls for replay expansion, despite a high-profile missed call in the 2019 NFC Championship Game. Ultimately, however, commissioner Roger Goodell joined a vocal group of coaches to push for a rule that no one on the competition committee initially endorsed: allowing replay review of pass interference calls and no-calls.
The rule left considerable interpretation in the hands of Al Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating and the final authority on all reviews. Riveron’s standard for overturning PI calls changed several times during the course of the season, and only 24 of 101 reviews were reversed.
“Replay has been the most successful when you’re dealing with objective information,” Murphy said, “and we added a subjective nature to it. … The challenge for a lot of coaches was trying to determine what’s the standard. The standard was set pretty high. That’s subjective. The decision on the field is subjective and then the standard in review is subjective.”
But simply scrapping the rule might be a difficult sell after a season in which on-field officials struggled to make correct calls on the field. Removing the safety net could leave as many problems as it solves. Competition committee chairman Rich McKay told reporters Sunday that ultimately the NFL would need to make a “cost-benefit analysis” on that leverage point.
“You have to decide from a cost-benefit analysis standpoint: Is this worth it? Are we getting enough bang for our buck as far as the game goes?” McKay said, according to the Washington Post. “And that’s one that the clubs have to answer…”
In the end, the committee might be left to recommend tweaks that can help the officiating office adjudicate pass interference more efficiently.
“I certainly think we can be better if we have it,” said Dallas Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones, a member of the committee. “That’s what we’re looking at: … how can we be better to where you feel good about it.”
Other relevant points of competition committee business this week include:
• Plans for the committee to discuss the league’s two-year drop in onside kick recoveries, a bi-product of changes to the kickoff in 2018. Last year, owners rejected a proposal that would have given teams a chance to convert a fourth-and-15 from their own 35-yard line, rather than kick off. The league experimented in the Pro Bowl with a similar option, but from the 25-yard line. Murphy said he considers that approach “a little gimmicky.” New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton, another member of the committee, has suggested a return to previous kickoff rules during the final two minutes of games.
• Adding a sky judge, who would sit in the press box and have the authority to throw flags or reverse penalties, has not been discussed this week, Murphy said.
• Two XFL rule innovations have caught the eyes of committee members. The first is a kicking alignment that has led to 93% of all kickoffs being returned. The second is a no-kick, three-tiered set of options for point-after-touchdown attempts. The point-after options not only make the play “more interesting,” Murphy said, but also reduce the possibility of overtime. Neither rule has been discussed as a potential proposal, but members are following their impact in the XFL closely.
ESPN’s Todd Archer contributed to this report.
Ex-Broncos DE Derek Wolfe, Ravens agree to 1-year deal, source says
The addition of Wolfe comes one day after the Ravens were unable to finalize a deal with Michael Brockers. There was an issue with Brockers’ injured ankle, and the sides couldn’t agree on a revised deal, a source said.
Baltimore has made it a priority to reshape its defensive front. The Ravens acquired defensive end Calais Campbell from the Jacksonville Jaguars, traded defensive end Chris Wormley to the Pittsburgh Steelers and watched defensive tackle Michael Pierce sign with the Minnesota Vikings in free agency.
Wolfe should help improve the pass rush for the Ravens. Baltimore’s defensive linemen totaled four sacks in 2019, the fewest by any team.
Wolfe finished his eighth season with the Broncos in 2019 and was one of the longest-tenured players on the team’s defense; only cornerback Chris Harris Jr. and linebacker Von Miller have played on the defense longer.
Coach Vic Fangio’s defensive scheme turned out to be perfect for Wolfe as he had one of his best all-around years in 2019 with 34 tackles and a career-best seven sacks. Wolfe has 33 sacks in his career.
Wolfe’s high-motor play has been a key part of the defensive front, and Miller credits Wolfe for many of his sacks “because of what Wolfe does next to me. He’s a beast.”
That intensity has come at a physical price at times, as Wolfe has battled through some injuries throughout his career, including neck surgery. He has played 16 games three times and went to injured reserve this past season after 12 games with a dislocated left elbow.
Wolfe, who turned 30 in February, was a second-round pick by the Broncos in 2012 — the team had traded out of the first round that year — and he immediately started 16 games as a rookie for a team that won the AFC West. He has started every game he played in for the Broncos — 108 in all — and while he hoped to re-sign with the Broncos at season’s end, he added “it’s a business.”
ESPN’s Jamison Hensley and Jeff Legwold contributed to this report.
Bobby Hebert Sr., father of former Saint and Falcon Bobby Hebert Jr., dies from COVID-19
Hebert Jr., a Southern Louisiana native, still works as an analyst for WWL Radio in New Orleans. He and his wife, Jojo, said in a statement that “our hearts are broken” and that Hebert Sr. was “the reason I made it” to the NFL.
Hebert Jr.’s son T-Bob, who played center at LSU, described his grandfather on Twitter as “the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known.”
This is my namesake Bobby Hebert Sr
He is the wisest, kindest, and most tactful person I have ever known
He passed this morning and I love him and I will miss him
He loved LSU to his core and instilled that love in me
“Jolie l’lait d’vivre” pic.twitter.com/g484pHIyYz
— T-Bob Hebert (@TBob53) March 28, 2020
Hebert Jr. broke down crying in a recent appearance on WWL while describing his father’s battle with the virus. He described his father as a “fighter” who survived colon cancer, multiple strokes and a birth defect that required open heart surgery.
But, Hebert Jr. said, “You can be tough and the virus can still overwhelm you,” before insisting that people heed the advice of health officials because “it’s an unseen enemy.”
Hebert Jr. also wrote in his statement about the “magic twinkle” in his father’s eye and his lifelong passion for the LSU Tigers.
“I’m kinda numb and shocked,” Hebert Jr. said in the WWL interview. “You get numb and then sometimes you don’t want to accept reality and what you’re dealing with.”
Chiefs re-signing WR DeMarcus Robinson for one year, source says
The Kansas City Chiefs are re-signing wide receiver DeMarcus Robinson to a one-year contract, a source confirmed to ESPN.
Robinson’s production increased each season after cracking the Chiefs’ receiving rotation, going from 21 catches and 212 yards in 2017 to 32 and 449 in 2019. He started 23 games over three seasons, mostly when the Chiefs opened in three- or four-receiver formations.
Robinson, who turns 26 in September, was a fourth-round draft pick in 2016 and played mostly on special teams as a rookie.
His big game with the Chiefs came in Week 2 of last season. With Tyreek Hill out with an injury, Robinson made the most of the opportunity with six catches for 172 yards and two touchdowns in a win over the Raiders.
NFL Network first reported that Robinson was returning to the Chiefs.
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