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NFL does away with under-the-hood reviews

PHOENIX -- Make the games faster and safer.

Those were the mandates NFL owners followed in voting on rules changes that were made Tuesday at the league's annual meeting.

The biggest that pertains to speeding up games is eliminating referees going under the hood to review plays. Beginning with the 2017 season, officials will view replays on the field using portable tablets, with final decisions made by the league's head of officiating, Dean Blandino, and his staff from NFL headquarters in New York.

Last week, during a conference call with reporters, Blandino stressed that the referee would continue to have a role in the process. "The referee will still be involved, the referee will still give input, but will no longer have the final say," Blandino said.

Owners also outlawed players leaping to try to block field goals and extra points.

"We're not going to put players in a position in which we think there is an unreasonable risk of injury," NFL Competition Committee chairman and Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay said in a conference call last week. "When we met with the NFLPA, it was a rule that certainly caught their attention and they favored it right from the outset given what they felt like was a danger to the player, to the leaper and the risk of injury."

In addition, owners:

*Extended the defenseless-receiver protection to route-running rather than just being in the act of trying to make a catch;

*Banned crackback blocks by a backfield player who goes in motion;

*Made committing multiple fouls on the same down, with the intention of manipulating the game clock, an unsportsmanlike-conduct penalty;

*Extended bringing touchbacks out to the 25-yard line for another year;

*Made the disqualification of a player penalized twice in a game for specific unsportsmanlike-conduct penalties a permanent rule.

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