The Journal Gazette
Friday, May 29, 2020 1:00 am

Coaches nearing return as NFL eases way back

BARRY WILNER | Associated Press

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell is hopeful that coaches will be able to return to their team facilities by next week.

Goodell said Thursday following an owners conference call that the virtual offseason is being extended for two more weeks. In a memo sent to the 32 teams, he outlined the next phase of reopening of club facilities, which can begin Monday.

“We expect that next week clubs will be permitted to include members of their coaching staffs among the employees permitted to resume work in the club facility,” Goodell wrote. “We are actively working with governors and other state and local authorities in those states that have not yet announced definitive plans and will confirm the precise date on which coaches can return to the facility as soon as possible.”

Ticket offices, retail shops and other “customer-facing facilities” that comply with state and local regulation can open, with employees counting in the current maximum number of employees allowed.

As for allowing players to return other than those undergoing rehab who currently are allowed at team complexes, Goodell added: “We are also continuing to work with the NFLPA on developing protocols that will allow at least some players to return to your facilities on a limited basis prior to the conclusion of the offseason program.”

NFL owners tabled a proposal that would have offered a fourth-and-15 play as an alternative to the onside kick. They approved testing expanded use of video replay in the preseason to aid in officiating. The 32 owners also increased the number of players who may be designated for return from the injured list during a season from two to three.

Also passed was making permanent the expansion of automatic replay reviews to include scoring plays and turnovers negated by a foul, and any successful or unsuccessful extra points.

The competition committee's recommendation to expand defenseless player protection to a kickoff or punt returner who is in possession of the ball but has not had time to avoid or ward off contact of an opponent also was approved. 

Another approved recommendation stops teams from manipulating the game clock by committing multiple dead-ball fouls while the clock is running — an issue that came up several times in 2019, including during the postseason.

Using video replay for pass interference calls was dropped after a one-year experiment.

Tabled was a proposal to have a booth judge serve as an eighth official on each crew and call for reviews on certain plays. The league will experiment with additional review options during the preseason, which is scheduled to begin on Aug. 6.

The league has stated it plans to play everything as scheduled while making contingency plans that could include no fans at games, moving or delaying games.

Also Thursday:

• Revamped the officiating department. Al Riveron, who has been overseeing the office, will lead the league's replay review process. Former coach Perry Fewell will handle the day-to-day operations, including outreach to the league's head coaches and general managers. Walt Anderson, a 24-year on-field official, becomes a senior vice president in charge of game officials.

 • Loosened rules on broadcast windows for Sunday afternoons. Four times in 2020, a network broadcasting a doubleheader will be allowed to show both games in a market where a team is at home on another network. In 2019, that was allowed twice.

Sign up for our daily headlines newsletter

Top headlines are sent daily