CFL approves four rule changes for 2011

TERRY KOSHAN, Toronto Sun

, Last Updated: 11:07 AM ET

The Canadian Football League announced on Thursday morning that the league’s board of governors has signed off on four rule changes for the 2011 season.

The changes include expanding the use of instant replay on game changing plays, eliminating blocking below the waist after a completed pass, punting out of bounds and illegal participation.

1. The expanded use of instant replay

When a quarterback drops back to pass, is hit and the ball comes out, and the play is ruled an incomplete pass, the defensive team can challenge the call. The new rule allows the command centre to overturn the call on the field, declare the play a fumble, and award possession to the defensive team if the ball had been recovered immediately. In prior seasons, the command centre could only review whether the play constituted an incomplete pass or a fumble, but it could not award possession.

When an on-field official rules an incomplete pass, the offensive team can challenge the ruling, hoping to have the command centre rule it a completed pass. Under the new expanded use of instant replay, a defensive team that believes the ball was caught, and then fumbled, can also challenge the on-field ruling. And the command centre could award the defensive team possession of the ball if it decides it was indeed caught, then fumbled, and then recovered immediately. In prior seasons, the command centre could only rule if the pass was complete or incomplete; it could not award possession.

In both of these instances, the defensive team would be awarded the ball where it is recovered. The command centre could not award return yards after the recovery.

2. Eliminating blocking below the waist after a completed pass

To promote player safety, only blocking above the defender’s waist will be allowed following a completed pass across the line of scrimmage. Blocking below the waist on such a play would result in a 10-yard penalty. Blocking below the waist had previously been eliminated on kick returns, interception returns, and fumble returns. It would still be allowed on running plays and passes completed behind the line of scrimmage.

3. Punting out of bounds

When a punt goes out of bounds in flight in between the 20-yard lines, the receiving team should have the option of taking the ball where it went out of bounds plus a 10-yard penalty against the kicking team, or requiring the kicking team to re-kick 10 yards back from the original line of scrimmage. Currently, the receiving team can either take the ball where it went out of bounds or require a re-kick 10 yards back.

4. Illegal participation

If a player is pushed out of bounds by an opponent, he can return to the field of play and make a play. If he goes out of bounds on his own, or is bumped out of bounds by a teammate, he cannot legally participate in the play. This clarifies the previous version of the rule, which does not specify bodily contact from an opponent.


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