The NFL's owners have voted unanimously to approve a rule that will allow a medical observer to call a timeout on the field if a player appears shaken up or disoriented, according to Ian Rapoport of the NFL Network.
The new rule would permit a certified athletic trainer at each game to communicate with a side judge and stop play should a player show sign of injury. According to John Keim of ESPN, neither team would be penalized for the timeout, and a team would be able to replace the player in question only during the timeout. The opposing team will also be allowed a substitute in order to match up with the new player.
Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said that the decision was prompted in part by the personnel the league already had on the field and comes after a review of several incidents during this past season.
"It came a little bit from the health and safety committee just saying, 'We've got these spotters (certified athletic trainers),' McKay said. "'They've got a really good vantage point. They've got the technology in their booth. They're communicating pretty well with our trainers and doctors, and we've got a pretty good rhythm going there.' Why would we miss a play when a player should come out?"
McKay also said that NFL officials reviewed the play during Super Bowl XLIX when Julian Edelman sustained a hit from safety Kam Chancellor and remained in the game, despite appearing to be unstable. According to Kent Somers of AZCentral.com, spotters at the Super Bowl wanted Edelman to be checked out more quickly after the play.
Owners also approved other rules that will apply peel-back block penalties to all offensive players, protect receivers in situations where they are defenseless after interceptions, and made it illegal to push a teammate at the line of scrimmage on punts and field goal attempts.
- Christopher Woody