Busy week awaits Bills personnel at NFL spring meetings



Items up for discussion include:

• Thirteen playing rules proposals and seven bylaws.

• Expanding the playoff field from 12 to 14 teams.

• Extending the height of the goal posts to help determine if kicks are good.

• Eliminating overtime in preseason games.

• Placing fixed TV cameras on the goal lines, end lines and sidelines to help replay reviews.

• Moving the line of scrimmage to the 25 for extra points.

• Allowing coaches to challenge any calls except on scoring plays.

After the first two weeks of free agency, the NFL takes a break this week for the league's three-day annual meeting. The sessions start Monday at the Ritz-Carlton Orlando Grande Lakes in Orlando, Florida.

The Bills will be represented by president and CEO Russ Brandon, general manager Doug Whaley, and head coach Doug Marrone along with other staffers. NFL business matters and long term planning issues are on the agenda, but the focus of the football folks will be on NFL rules, and the changes proposed by the league's Competition Committee.

Late last week, the committee unveiled a list of proposed changes to playing rules and league bylaws that will be discussed this week in Orlando. Competition Committee Chairman Rich McKay says team officials will get their first look at the proposed changes first thing Monday morning.

"On Monday, we'll distribute the Competition Committee report," McKay told a media conference call Wednesday. "There are 13 playing rules that will be presented to the membership and there are seven bylaws that will be presented."

One of the most talked about playing rules changes would allow the on-field referee to consult with the NFL officiating department in New York City during replay reviews. Until now, the ref on the field would talk only with the league observer in the stadium.

Competition Committee member Jeff Fisher, Head Coach of the St. Louis Rams, described how the process will work.

"The referee will go to the booth and talk to the observer," Fisher said, "but during that process, our command center in New York, headed by Dean Blandino (Director of Officiating), will already be reviewing the play. At the end of the day, what's going to happen is we're going to make sure that every single review is correct and we feel like this will speed up the instant replay process and timing."

Another rule change being discussed deals with extra-point kicks. The league says 99.6-percent of all extra-point kicks were successful last season, and there's sentiment to add a more meaningful kick or play at the end of a touchdown. The New England Patriots have proposed moving the line of scrimmage to the 25-yard line for extra-point kicks. But the Competition Committee has a plan to experiment with an extra point kick from the 20-yard line during a selected preseason week next year.

"We are going to propose this weekend to the membership that during one of the preseason weeks we move the extra point back to the 20-yard line and see how that goes," Jeff Fisher said on the conference call. That would result in a 38-yard kick for the extra point.

There's one change in the bylaws that is certain to generate discussion during the NFL Meetings this week-expansion of playoffs. Although it's not a Competition Committee proposal, the panel has made a recommendation regarding expanding the playoff field from six to seven teams per conference. The plan would mean only the top seed in each conference would get a bye in the first week of the playoffs, and seeds two-through-seven would play in that first week. The three winners would then join the top seed in the divisional round. The plan would go into effect following the 2015 season.

That proposal is certain to be a major topic of conversation when NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell meets with the media on Wednesday afternoon to wrap up the three days of meetings.

buffalobills.com will have complete coverage of the NFL meetings starting Monday. And the John Murphy Show Presented by NOCO will be broadcasting live from the NFL Meetings on Monday and Wednesday nights from 7-9 p.m., with a podcast available at buffalobills.com/johnmurphyshow on Tuesday.

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