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Rule changes receive league approval

ORLANDO, Fla. — The NFL approved several rules proposals on Wednesday during its annual ownership meetings in Orlando, Fla.,

Receiving the league’s go-ahead for next season was a five-foot extension of the goalposts, allowing the recovery of a loose ball on the field to be reviewable and permitting the game clock to continue running after a sack outside of the two-minute mark.

Among the measures that failed were expanding replay to all plays, moving kickoffs to the 40-yard line, pushing back extra-point attempts to the 25-yard line and allowing an unlimited number of players on injured reserve to return to the active roster.

Although the league shot down longer extra-point tries, it will experiment during weeks one and two of the preseason with the ball being placed at the 20-yard line for point-after snaps.

No decision was made on proposals to eliminate overtime in the preseason, expanding the practice squad from eight to 10 players and boosting roster size for Thursday night games to 49 from 46, and adding cameras to all goal lines, sidelines and end lines.

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On-field player taunting and workplace conduct are points of concern that the NFL plans to address before the 2014 season.

The league’s Competition Committee is looking into ways to control behavior, St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher said Wednesday at the NFL Annual Meetings in Orlando, Fla.

According to NFL Media, taunting penalties nearly tripled last season.

“We agreed that we have an issue on the field and we agreed that we are going get it under control as soon as we can possibly can,” Fisher said. “Our taunting numbers increased from nine and 12 to 34 last year, and we’re going to effect change immediately and that change will be effected as early as the OTAs when the players come back.

“We’ve got to change our conduct on the field. We’ve got to bring the element of respect to its highest level back to our game.”

Fisher indicated that enforcement of taunting penalties will be ramped up at the beginning of the 2014 season.

“We’re going to clean the game up on the field between the players,” Fisher said. “The in-your-face taunting. The language. It’s all in the book. It’s all under unsportsmanlike conduct. There’s no change in our rule. We’re going to enforce the current rule.”

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell also emphasized earlier in the week the importance of respect and sportsmanship on and off the field.

Fisher echoed those thoughts, pointing out that NFL players’ conduct has an effect on college players and all levels of football. The league is even moving the taunting section in the rulebook to the front.

“We’re going to raise the standard on the field,” Fisher.

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NFL players no longer will be able to celebrate a touchdown by dunking the ball over the crossbar without drawing a penalty.

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino made it clear on Tuesday that starting in 2014 an existing rule will be enforced that prohibits using the ball as a prop in celebrations.

“We grandfathered in some (celebrations), the Lambeau Leap and things like that. But dunking will come out,” Blandino said on the Dan Patrick Show. “Using the ball as a prop or any object as a prop, whether that’s the goalpost, the crossbar, that will come out and that will be a foul next season.”

New Orleans Saints tight end Jimmy Graham, a 6-foot-7 former Miami basketball player, popularized dunking — even rocking the crossbar twice with failed attempts. Last year during a game against the Atlanta Falcons, the game was delayed while workers rebalanced the goalpost after Graham bent it.

Players reacted negatively on Twitter to the news.

“I guess I’ll have to lead the @nfl in penalties next year!” Graham tweeted, including a doctored picture of a referee jumping to block his attempt to dunk a ball over the crossbar.

The tweet was later deleted.

“The NFL says no more dunking over the goalpost. This one I don’t understand. Looks like I got out just in time,” retired tight end Tony Gonzalez tweeted.

The NFL Competition Committee is also considering a proposal to raise the goalposts by five feet.

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The NFL owners voted Tuesday to significantly change the instant replay process, allowing referees to communicate with the New York officiating command center during reviews.

The league announced that owners voted to pass Rule Proposal 9 at the NFL meetings in Orlando, Fla. Referees will now be able to speak with head of officiating Dean Blandino at the command center in New York, who will help in reviewing a play.

This proposal had wide support throughout the league because there is belief it will improve accuracy and speed during replay reviews.

The officiating command center immediately will begin to review replays after the call is challenged. By the time the referee gets to the sideline monitor, the command center can advise the referee on what to look for in the play.

Asked Monday how the system would work, Blandino said, “It’s still a referee review; he has the ultimate authority. We’ll come to a consensus, we’re certainly not going to let him make a mistake, but the referee has the final authority on the call.

“It will be a discussion, we’ll consult. We’ll give him the information because we’ll have already started looking at it before he even gets under the hood and we can give him our input, put him in the right position to make the right call and we’ll have discussion and come to a conclusion.”

The league also voted to ban “roll up” blocks to the side of a player’s leg. This is a tweak of the rule that bans these blocks from behind. It should help mostly defensive players.