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Bears staff convinced George McCaskey to support new non-call rule proposal

PHOENIX — At first, Bears chairman George McCaskey didn’t like the idea of granting teams the right to challenge and review non-calls when he traveled to the Arizona Biltmore for the NFL meetings.

McCaskey, though, was convinced otherwise, and that change started internally through conversations with coach Matt Nagy, general manager Ryan Pace and president/CEO Ted Phillips.

“Matt, Ryan and Ted made some persuasive arguments,” McCaskey said Tuesday after the NFL owners approved a new rule that allows for offensive and defensive pass interference — including non-calls — to be subject to review.

It was the most significant rule proposed and passed at this year’s league meetings. The change comes as a direct response to the outrage that arose after the Saints’ loss to the Rams in the NFC Championship Game. 

Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) breaks up a pass intended for Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis in the NFC Championship Game. No pass-interference penalty was called. | Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman (23) breaks up a pass intended for Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis in the NFC Championship Game. No pass-interference penalty was called. | Gerald Herbert/Associated Press

Late in the fourth quarter, Rams cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ran into Saints wide receiver Tommylee Lewis on a pass in Lewis’ direction, but no penalty was called.

“We’ve come up with something that we think enhances the instant-replay system and addresses the situation that arose in the NFC Championship Game with the Saints and the Rams,” McCaskey said.

The rule passed 31-1 among owners. The NFL’s competition committee, which includes Saints coach Sean Payton, was in unanimous favor 8-0.

For now, the rule is only in place for the 2019 season.

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The only time that coaches will not be able to challenge such calls comes in the last two minutes of each half, when they will automatically be subject to a booth review.

Focus on the Packers

McCaskey said the Bears won’t be too involved in the free fan festival at Grant Park that will accompany the NFL Kickoff Game between the Bears and Packers at Soldier Field on Sept. 5. The Bears and the NFL are celebrating their 100th seasons.

“Our focus is primarily on the game,” McCaskey said. “The ancillary events are really between the city and the league. We’re going to be supportive of those things in whatever way they would like us to be. But, of course, our focus is going to be on the game.”

McCaskey said he expects Soldier Field to be rocking.

“The 199th meeting [between the Bears and Packers],” McCaskey said. “We’re two behind in the series. This would be a good season to even things up, I think.”

More to come

As part of their centennial celebration, the Bears will have a “major announcement” about a classic uniform next week, McCaskey said.