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'I'd like to see us not err'

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Jack Del Rio doesn't dislike every NFL rule proposal up for vote next week.

He likes the idea of moving the replay challenge system more to the booth and away from the field, and when it comes to eliminating the wedge on kickoffs, Del Rio said this week he favors that, too.

But overall . . .

Well, overall Del Rio – entering his ninth season as the Jaguars' head coach – said there is much with which he disagrees when it comes to the proposals made by the NFL's Competition Committee, proposals scheduled to be voted upon by NFL Owners when they meet early next week in New Orleans, La.

One of Del Rio's primary concerns:

That the league is installing language further modifying the definition of defenseless players, and adding categories to prohibit illegal launching, springing forward and upward, and delivering a blow with any part of his helmet or facemask.

"I don't believe at this point that additional language – when we already have rules that are not understood – is the way to go," Del Rio said as he and other prominent members of the Jaguars prepared to attend the meetings. "I think we ought to clarify what we have first and give those guys a chance to work within the rules."

Del Rio, who said he plans to voice his opinion at the league meetings, said he – like many others – also is concerned about a proposal under which kickoffs would be moved to the 35-yard-line, with touchbacks after kickoffs moving to the 25.

The kickoff rule, like the majority of the proposed changed this off-season, focuses on player safety. Del Rio said while player safety is an issue, the rule as proposed threatens the concept of the kickoff return as it currently exists.

"I don't like it," Del Rio said of the proposal. "You've got to ask yourself, 'Do you want to take kicking out of the game?' If you move it up like they're saying, you're basically saying, 'We're going to force touchbacks.' Then, you're going to put the ball on the 25. Well, why the 25? Do we want to see more scoring? What are we trying to do? What are we trying to accomplish?"

Del Rio also noted that a team such as the Jaguars, who emphasize special teams and the return game, could be hurt by the proposals.

"As a team that invests quite a bit on special teams – and I know there are quite a few others in the league that have done so – I'm not in favor of these rule changes," Del Rio said.

Del Rio said he was in favor of language in the proposal that would eliminate the wedge block from kickoff returns. The league made anything more than a two-man wedge illegal last off-season, and owners will vote next week on whether to eliminate any wedge.

"There's some language indicating they might take it away all together," Del Rio said. "I'm in favor of that. I think that's where the injuries happen."

Del Rio also said he is concerned about what he sees as further emphasis on having officials "err on the side of caution" when making calls concerning player safety.

 "I'm a little concerned about that," he said. "I don't agree with any additional language there. I feel like it's already a little too subjective. There's concern about that. This 'err on the side of caution' – why are we erring? Let's not err. I'd like to see us not err."

Del Rio cited as evidence a play that occurred late in the Jaguars' loss to Philadelphia this season.

"We get a first down on a play, but during the course of that play one of our offensive linemen turned back and blocked the defensive guy," Del Rio said. "The defensive guy was jogging along with both of his chin straps undone. He had his helmet popped off. The official didn't see it but he 'erred on the side of caution,' so he dropped the flag. We get penalized. We end up having to punt and they go up 14-3. We had a first down at the two-minute mark going the other way on the 50. It's a game-changer.

"I don't believe we should be legislating in and putting it on the officials to err on the side of caution, to guess. I think they ought to know what they see and call what they see. I think they have a hard enough job as it is. I don't think they should assume something bad has happened."

The reality, Del Rio said, is that the NFL fine system is in place to deal with flagrant violations.

"There is an ability to suspend," Del Rio said. "If you see a player is doing something outside the lines, fine them and suspend him. But enforce the rules we have first. We've done a pretty good job of addressing that whole thing and I would not go further."

Del Rio said what he most favors among the league's prominent proposals is one that mandates that all scoring plays be confirmed upstairs by the replay official, as is the case in the last two minutes of both halves and overtime.

Coaches, in that instance, would not need to challenge.

Del Rio said he sees that as a possible move toward the college system, in which all plays are reviewed upstairs. Del Rio said he would favor such a move.

"I've long been a proponent of the reviews being in the booth," Del Rio said. "I think it all ought to be handled in the booth, like college does. The replay technician could be upstairs in a climate-controlled booth looking at a big screen in high def and make the decision in 15 seconds and be done with it. That's as opposed to having a guy walk across the field, get into a little booth, look at a little screen, determine what it is and try to figure it out. We're wasting a lot of time right there.

"I think it potentially is a step in the right direction. I would like to see it go upstairs on a full-time basis. I don't know if we'll go straight to that. I think eventually we'll go there and I would be a fan of it.

"Yes, I believe, 'Let's get it right.' If it's not an obvious error, don't stop the game. You'll still have the ability to have the coach stop it himself, but get the obvious errors corrected."

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