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More video review among potential NFL rule changes

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The NFL’s competition committee has endorsed six potential rule changes for the 2021 season, including a proposal that would expand the scope of information that replay officials could provide to on-field officiating crews during games.

The change would fall well short of calls for adding an eighth official, sometimes known as a sky judge, but would give referees a new resource to help make accurate calls without needing a formal review.

Any team can propose a new rule, and the league sent out a list Thursday morning of 13 rule or bylaw change proposals. All require votes from at least 24 owners for approval; it’s rare for one to pass without competition committee endorsement. Debate and potential votes are scheduled to take place later this month, according to the current league schedule.

Replay officials were already empowered to help referees with a limited suite of information, including such items as the correct time on the game clock and the correct down. This year’s proposal adds to that list, if video available in the press box shows “clear and obvious” evidence. Replay officials — as well as other members of the league’s officiating department — would be able to advise on possession, a completed or intercepted pass, whether a player is down by contact and the position of the ball relative to a line or boundary.

Coaches would still be able to initiate a formal review of such plays. Other proposals from the competition committee include:

• An elimination of overtime in preseason games.

• Allowing a maximum of nine players in the “setup zone,” the 15-yard area behind their restraining line when set up for a kickoff return. This proposal could make it a bit easier to recover onside kicks, a challenge that has grown harder since the NFL’s 2018 revamp of the kickoff. The Philadelphia Eagles proposed a more radical change, giving teams an option for one play to gain 15 yards to keep possession after a score, but similar suggestions have failed to receive enough votes in previous years.

• A significant restriction on blocking below the waist beyond five yards of the line of scrimmage and two yards outside of the offensive tackle.

• Prohibiting playoff teams from signing players who had been cut by teams whose seasons were complete.

• Requiring teams to report tryouts and visits to the league office throughout the year.

Among the team proposals, which are less likely to get consideration without competition committee endorsements, are:

• A proposal from the Baltimore Ravens to add an eighth official that would have access to television replay and be positioned somewhere other than the field.

• A revamp of overtime from the Ravens and Eagles that would require the winner of the coin toss to choose one of two options: Where to spot the ball or which team will get the first possession.

• Another overtime option from the Ravens and Eagles that would create true sudden death.

• A rule change from the Los Angeles Rams to impose a loss of down if a “second forward pass from behind the line and for a pass thrown after the ball returns behind the line.” The Rams had a play like that work against them last season when the Tampa Bay BuccaneersTom Brady caught his own pass then threw it again.

• A request from the Kansas City Chiefs to relax rules for uniform numbers.

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Veteran QB Sean Mannion signing with Seattle Seahawks, source says

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RENTON, Wash. — The Seattle Seahawks are signing free-agent quarterback Sean Mannion, a source told ESPN’s Adam Schefter on Saturday.

The signing adds apparent competition for one of the backup jobs behind Russell Wilson and reunites the 29-year-old Mannion with new Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron. Waldron was an assistant with the Los Angeles Rams for two of the quarterback’s four seasons with the team.

The Seahawks have had Danny Etling and Alex McGough as their third and fourth quarterbacks behind Wilson and Geno Smith, who has served as Wilson’s backup the past two seasons. The Seahawks typically keep two quarterbacks on their 53-man roster and another on their practice squad, though they began carrying another backup on their practice squad late last season as COVID-19-related insurance.

The Seahawks re-signed Smith this offseason to a one-year, minimum-salary deal worth $1,212,500, with $137,500 guaranteed.

Mannion entered the NFL as a third-round draft pick by the Rams out of Oregon State in 2015. He spent his first four seasons with the Rams and the past two with the Minnesota Vikings. He has appeared in 13 games (none last season) with two starts and has completed 45 of 74 passes for 384 yards and zero touchdowns with three interceptions.

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Arizona Cardinals’ Jordan Hicks says he requested trade after learning he can’t vie for starting job

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GLENDALE, Ariz. — A few days after the Arizona Cardinals drafted linebacker Zaven Collins 16th overall on April 29, general manager Steve Keim called Jordan Hicks, one of the team’s starting inside linebackers the past two seasons, and told him he couldn’t compete for a starting job this season, Hicks said Saturday.

Hicks, 29, has played in all 32 games since signing with the Cardinals in 2019 and has the sixth-most tackles and snaps over the past two seasons, according to ESPN Stats & Information research.

He said he was “pissed off” but also understood the business behind the team’s decision to name Collins the Day 1 starter at inside linebacker alongside last season’s first-round pick, Isaiah Simmons.

According to Hicks, that discussion with Keim led to Hicks requesting a trade this offseason. A deal has yet to materialize, but he has garnered interest, Hicks said.

“When everything happened, it was tough to handle,” Hicks said.

“I respected the fact that he told me straight up. I respected the fact that he told me he was going to work with me to try to honor a trade. And, so, there’s a part of you that respects that, but then there’s a part that just wishes you had had an opportunity to compete, which is all I asked for.”

Hicks, who didn’t participate in the Cardinals’ mandatory minicamp, said there was a point this offseason when he didn’t expect to be a Cardinal in 2021. He said he believes the reduced salary cap in 2021 was partially to blame for him not getting traded. Hicks’ contract was restructured in late March to make his $3 million salary this season fully guaranteed. He also has a roster bonus that’s worth up to $1 million if he’s active for all 16 games. He could earn another $2 million in bonuses, partially from playing time.

Even though Hicks said he’s “excited to be here,” he also said he would welcome an opportunity to start — anywhere.

“I think at this point, I think I’ve proven that I’m a starter in this league by the resume that I have, by the past two years of being here and showing my leadership, showing my play on the field,” Hicks said. “And, so, whether it’s here, whether it’s somewhere else, if given the opportunity to compete, I think I can have a starting job.”

Hicks said he has thus far been impressed with Collins, who’ll be entrusted with calling the Cardinals’ defense. Hicks, who had that role the past two seasons, described the task as “tough.”

“I’m gonna be very honest with you, Zaven has done a great job. He has,” Hicks said. “He’s really impressed me in his ability to pick up the defense and be out there commanding it, as well.

“It’s a tough job and takes a lot of responsibility, especially when you’ve got guys like Chandler Jones and Budda Baker and J.J. Watt looking back at you to make sure that you’re getting the right call in. So, it’s a lot, but if you can handle it, you can handle it, and that’s part of the game I know, for me, specifically, I love it. That’s one thing I excel at.”

Hicks has been seen at training camp working with both Collins and Simmons on the sideline, showing them different moves or talking through plays. Even though he’s preparing his replacements, Hicks has accepted his role as a mentor. Hicks looked back on how DeMeco Ryans, now the San Francisco 49ers‘ defensive coordinator, answered all of his questions and helped him when he was a rookie in 2015 with the Philadelphia Eagles, and he said he used that as an example of how he wanted to approach this season.

“I don’t try to waver who I am,” Hicks said. “Whether I’m out there starting or whether I’m not, I’m going to help whoever needs help, because I feel like I’ve got a lot of knowledge to share.”

Defensive coordinator Vance Joseph didn’t rule out the possibility of Hicks earning playing time or spelling Collins should Collins struggle. Joseph was among the Cardinals coaches who were in touch with him throughout the offseason.

Joseph said there could be a package that includes Hicks and the two young linebackers. A glimpse of that was on display during Saturday’s practice.

Hicks said the best players should play, plain and simple.

“This year, it’s such a make-or-break year,” Hicks said. “We’ve got to win games, and this division isn’t getting any easier. “And, so, we’ve got to focus on winning. We’ve got to focus on execution.”

After Hicks finished a revealing news conference in which he didn’t shy away from any question, he tried to open the door that connected the media room and the locker room.

It was locked.

Hicks laughed.

The irony wasn’t lost on him.

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Minnesota Vikings QB Kellen Mond tests positive for COVID-19; Kirk Cousins a high-risk close contact

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EAGAN, Minn. — The Minnesota Vikings will be without multiple players for Saturday evening’s practice at TCO Stadium due to a COVID-19 interruption, the team announced.

Vikings rookie quarterback Kellen Mond has tested positive for COVID-19, a league source confirmed to ESPN, and as a result, fellow quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Nate Stanley — both deemed high-risk close contacts, per a source — will miss Saturday’s practice and have to abide by a five-day quarantine before returning to training camp.

NFL Network was first to report that Mond’s positive test for COVID-19 and Cousins’ high-risk close contact designation.

According to the protocols put together this summer by the NFL and players’ union, high-risk close contacts designate that a player is not fully vaccinated.

Jake Browning, who is fully vaccinated according to Vikings coach Mike Zimmer, is expected to be Minnesota’s only quarterback available for Saturday’s practice.

“Something like this happens a day before a game that has a chance to get you to the playoffs or something like that … this Delta variant is rough,” Zimmer said. “You can see the cases going up every single day now. That’s why, for the sake of everybody’s health, I think it’s important. But some people don’t understand, I guess.”

Zimmer did not specify how many additional players would have to miss Saturday’s practice and if the Vikings would be placing anyone on the COVID-19 reserve list. The Vikings coach did, however, say the team did not consider cancelling the evening practice.

“You know, quite honestly, after everything we went through last year, I’m not surprised one bit,” Zimmer said. “I am disappointed that this happened. I’m frustrated, not just with my football players who didn’t get vaccinated, but I’m frustrated with everybody [who didn’t]. We’ll just do the best we can. It’s just disappointing.”

Browning signed with the Vikings as an undrafted free agent in 2019 and was a member of Minnesota’s practice squad the last two season. He is competing for the back-up job behind Cousins.

“Jake’s really smart,” Zimmer said. “He’s vaccinated, that helps to be the backup. So as we move forward here, he’s gonna get a ton of reps tonight. I don’t about saying ‘it’s going to go a long way’ because we’ve still a lot of camp to go. But we’ll see. He’s out there, he’s available, that’s important. It’s important to be available when you’re playing football, a team sport.”

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