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Owners approve changes to replay review, draft order

DANA POINT, Calif. -- Ed Hochuli and other NFL referees can rest easier Wednesday after team owners passed a rule allowing video replays on a loose ball that could be either a fumble or an incomplete pass.

Hochuli famously ruled Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler to have thrown an incomplete pass in the final moments of a Week 2 game against the San Diego Chargers last season. However, replays clearly showed it was a fumble that the Chargers recovered, but the play wasn't part of the review process. Denver kept the ball and won the game seconds later on a Cutler touchdown pass and a two-point conversion.

Now the play would be reviewable.

The NFL's competition committee used a similar application as when it added video reviews of down-by-contact plays involving a fumble.

Also, replay now can be used to determine if a loose ball hit the sideline. A Cardinals kickoff in January's NFC Championship Game was ruled to have gone out of bounds even though it was recovered in bounds by Arizona. Replays showed the ball never hit or crossed the sideline.

The owners eliminated a rekick after an illegal onside kick, immediately awarding the ball to the receiving team.

The draft order for playoff teams was reworked and will be based on where teams were eliminated in the postseason. Last season, the Chargers (8-8) beat the Colts (12-4) in a wild-card game, but San Diego will pick before Indianapolis in next month's draft because it had a worse regular-season record. The new procedure begins in 2010.

A waiver period during the first two weeks of training camp was established. Owners also reworded when the postseason waiver period begins -- previously it was after the Pro Bowl. In the future, the Super Bowl will be played after the Pro Bowl in some seasons, and the waiver period will begin after the final postseason game.

Finally, on all fumbles and laterals that go out of bounds, the clock will start when the referee signals ready for play.

Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press

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