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NFL makes five player safety rule changes

Spotter will be able to call a medical timeout

Phoenix – In the interest of NFL player safety, league owners Tuesday instituted a rule change that will grant a third party the power to stop a game if a player appears disoriented, one of five safety rules changes that have been instituted at this year's NFL Meetings.

A spotter – a certified athletic trainer – will be in attendance in each NFL stadium and will be empowered to call a medical timeout if it's deemed necessary.

The rule states that if the spotter has clear visual evidence that a player "displays obvious signs of disorientation or is clearly unstable," and it becomes apparent that the player will remain in the game and not be attended to by the club's medical or athletic training staff, then the spotter can contact the side judge over the officials' communication system to identify the player, and contact the medical staff of the player involved and advise that the player appears to be in need of medical attention.

The side judge will immediately stop the game.

No team will be charged a timeout during the stoppage and teams only can replace the affected player during the game stoppage. The opposition would be able to replace one player as well.

Also adopted at the meetings, held at the Arizona Biltmore, was the prohibition of peel back blocks by any offensive team member. Formerly, the prohibition applied only to players inside the tackle box.

Another rules change geared toward player safety further will protect defenseless receivers. Now, the protection will extend to when passes are intercepted; if a receiver remains unable to defend himself from a hit after the turnover, he still will be deemed defenseless.

Owners also approved a change that will penalize teams' players for pushing teammates on the line of scrimmage, into the offensive formation, when the opposing team attempts a punt, field goal or point-after.

The last player-safety rule adopted involves the chop block. It is now illegal for a back to chop a defensive player engaged above the waist by another offensive player outside the area originally occupied by the tight end.

The one rule change regarding the replay system is one that will allow for the addition of a replay review for the game clock at the end of the half, the game or overtime if more than one second is on the clock.

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