Ravens coach John Harbaugh said he has no doubt that the team's proposal to expand the league's instant replay system will take effect. It just might not be this year.

The NFL owners voted today on the final day of the league meetings to table the Ravens' proposal to expand what is allowed to be reviewed by replay. The proposal will be discussed in more depth at the next league gathering in May.


Under the Ravens' proposal, only the following plays would not be reviewable:

  • Offensive and defensive holding
  • Offensive and defensive pass interference
  • Illegal contact
  • Illegal use of hands
  • Whether a forward passer, defenseless receiver or kicker has been forcibly contacted
  • Unsportsmanlike conduct.

The current system allows 33 types of plays a coach can challenge, and Harbaugh said it creates far too much confusion.

"Fans don't understand it. Color commentators don't understand it. The ex-referees that do that expert analysis struggle with it," Harbaugh said Tuesday at the AFC coaches breakfast at the Boca Raton Resort. "That really doesn't need to be the case. We're trying to get new fans all across the globe, and our rules need to be understandable. And the technology has out-paced the rule book right now.

"Our rule is just a simplification. It makes it easier for the fans. It makes it easier for the officials, for the coaches. Instead of 33 definitions and notes, there are eight. We're saying what's not reviewable, and what's not reviewable are the judgment calls."

The Ravens' proposal generated some support at this week's meetings, and Arizona Cardinals coach Bruce Arians was among those who backed it. However, the owners weren't ready to sign off on it fully. Rich McKay, the head of the competition committee, did tell reporters today he believes there is merit to the Ravens' proposal.

Harbaugh is confident more will hop on board.

"Oh, it will pass eventually. There's no question that replay is going to pass eventually," Harbaugh said. "It's not 1999, when we put replay in. Everyone is watching the game through their smart phones now. The fans live in replay. The fans are officiating the game in replay. The fans have a better view and a better look at the game than the official does. Why aren't we giving the officials and coaches that same view?"

Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti also spoke out Tuesday about the importance of expanding instant replay.

"I am a huge proponent of getting it right, getting it better," Bisciotti said in an interview with The Baltimore Sun and the team website. "There are interactions on the field that seven referees cannot do real time. I'm in the middle of the NCAA tournament, and it's the same thing. It's not about the Ravens. It's about sports. I am sure [Maryland point guard Melo Trimble] got fouled, and then I see the replay and he didn't.

"I don't think it will extend games that long. I don't think it's an issue. … When you sit down to watch a football game, you don't make plans to walk away from that 1 o'clock game at 4. I just think it's unfair to the refs that every fan has a 70-inch TV and they're seeing four or five different angles that quickly. And I think it's unfair for the coaches to have to put up with them. There are smarter men than me, but I think that replay has to be improved and expanded."

The Ravens' proposal to have players wear vests to help the referees and the defenses better identify eligible and ineligible players also was nixed.

The competition committee did make several changes in addition to banning the chop block and permanently moving extra-point tries to the 15-yard line.

On Wednesday, owners approved a rule that will trigger an ejection for a player who is penalized twice in one game for certain types of unsportsmanlike conduct fouls. They also passed a rule that will give teams the ball at the 25-yard line, rather than the 20, after touchbacks on kickoffs. Both those rules are in place on 1-year trial bases for 2016.

Harbaugh said he backed the new ejection proposal, but he didn't seem convinced that moving touchbacks to the 25 will reach its desired intent, which is to further reduce returns on kickoffs, where a lot of injuries occur.


"I'm a special teams coach. I like kickoffs and kickoff returns," Harbaugh said. "I know [general manager Ozzie Newsome] is going to vote for it, and we'll just have to figure out a way to make it work for us. We're going to look at it in a way that we may kick it off at the goal line as high as we can and get the return team at the 12-, 15-yard line. It's going to be really hard for us to say, 'Hey we're going to surrender the 25-yard line as a kickoff coverage team.' That's really not in the spirit of competition and what we're trying to accomplish here. It's going to go the way it's going to go and I'm kind of sitting this one out."

There will also be a change to the injured reserve with a designation to return rule. While teams will still be allowed to use that tag on only one player, they won't have to designate the player immediately.


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