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Committee proposes ‘medical timeout’

PHOENIX – At least one NFL owner seems convinced that Los Angeles, which hasn’t had a team in the league for 20 years, will get two of them by 2016.

And he isn’t just any owner. He is the New England Patriots’ Robert Kraft, regarded as one of the most influential owners in the NFL.

In making it clear that he wasn’t speaking for the league, Kraft did say he expected two existing clubs to move to the Los Angeles area, because there are promising stadium plans for Carson and Inglewood.

“I really believe within the next year we’ll have two teams in the” Los Angeles “market,” he said Monday at the start of the league meetings. “I think there are good plans. We have some real good options. And now we’ll see what happens in the end game.”

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The NFL Competition Committee has added to its lengthy list of proposed rules changes. Although most of the proposals deal with instant replay, there are several that address safety issues.

The latest, revealed Monday, is called a “medical timeout.” It gives independent injury spotters the chance to stop the game before checking a player who might be showing signs of a concussion.

“This resolution now allows the spotter to communicate directly with the game officials through their wireless communication system,” NFL Vice President of Officiating Dean Blandino said. “He can say, ‘We have to get No. 82 out of the game.’ So it will happen before the next snap. He’ll communicate with a member of the officiating crew and that game official will immediately stop the game.

“If the play clock is running, they will stop, they will freeze it. The player will be escorted to the sideline and the medical staff will attend to him if they need to on the field. Or they will take him off to the sideline to attend to him. Then everything will start up again.”

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As a result of the controversial ruling of a non-catch by Dallas wide receiver Dez Bryant to the Green Bay 1-yard line in the Cowboys’ divisional-round playoff loss against the Packers, the NFL has proposed a tweak to the language of a catch/non-catch.

“In order to complete a catch, the receiver has to have control, both feet on the ground and he has to have it after that long enough to clearly establish himself as a runner,” Blandino said. “And this would fall directly in line with our defenseless player rule where we say a receiver is protected until he can clearly establish himself as a runner. That means he has the ability to ward off, avoid, protect himself from the impending contact.

“And then we get into, is the player going to the ground or falling to the ground to make the catch or is he completing the catch while upright? Well, if he can clearly establish himself as a runner, then he’s not going to the ground to make the catch. If he hasn’t clearly established himself as a runner prior to going to the ground, then he has to hold on to the ball until after his initial contact with the ground.”

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Although there has been plenty of discussion on the topic within the NFL, there will “definitely be no expansion of the playoffs this year,” Kraft said.

“A lot of people want it badly and, of course, it just gives their team a greater chance to be in,” Kraft said. “We’re analyzing the facts, but I think it’s something that could happen when we go long-term with our Thursday night package, that we tied it into that. We’ll see what happens.”

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Bills owners Terry and Kim Pegula are not addressing the media in Phoenix, but team President Russ Brandon offered this perspective on being a part of their first major league meeting.

“They’re both extremely quick studies when it comes to the material and what we’re going through,” Brandon said. “Most of what we sit in in the owners’ sessions are typically business-based, business-focused. And then all the other agenda items are related to health and safety and the financials.

“Part of my responsibility is to make sure that they’re up to speed on what they need to know coming into the meeting and, in parallel, you have the football operations meetings, which then bleed into the owners’ meeting as well. So they’ll have an opportunity to sit with” coach “Rex Ryan and General Manager Doug Whaley and go through playing proposals.”

e-mail: vcarucci@buffnews.com

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