Down-by-contact whistled dead, for now

By RICK STROUD, Times wires
Published March 24, 2005

KAPALUA, Hawaii - Instant replay will not be used to review down-by-contact plays.

The proposal received 20 of 32 votes, two fewer than needed for a one-year trial. It would have permitted referees to use replay to look at fumbles even if the whistle had blown.

"It actually got a few more yes votes than I thought," said Falcons president/general manager Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the Competition Committee. "This is a big play. This is a turnover. We haven't heard the last of it."

Most of the rules considered were to improve safety.

It tabled a proposal until the May meeting that would prohibit "horse-collar" tackles, in which a player is grabbed by the back of his shoulder pads and driven to the ground.

It's a technique Cowboys safety Roy Williams used to injure four players, including Eagles receiver Terrell Owens.

"Look for it in some form to be passed in May," McKay said.

A new rule outlaws the peel-back block below the waist and from the back. It will now result in a 15-yard penalty.

Also, the definition of unnecessary roughness was broadened to include diving into, cutting or colliding with a player who is out of the play.

Under that rule, the controversial hit by then-Bucs defensive tackle Warren Sapp on Packers tackle Chad Clifton would now be a 15-yard penalty.

Another safety rule will give punters and kickers the same protection as quarterbacks, outlawing hits if they are out of the play.

The Chiefs' proposal to reduce illegal contact penalties to 5 yards and not a first down failed. They also failed in an effort to assess pass interference penalties as 15 yards (the same as in college) instead of moving the ball to the spot of the foul.

REVENUE SHARING: The owners remain divided over revenue sharing and contributions to the player pool under the salary cap, which is holding up serious negotiations on the labor agreement.

Five high-revenue teams (Dallas, Washington, Houston, New England and Philadelphia) contribute a lower percentage to the players' benefit package than the other 27 teams. Owners must agree on a formula, which will help determine total revenue for the league.

Then the owners and players must agree on what percentage of revenue will be used for the salary cap.

SUPER BOWL: Owners voted 31-1 to award the 2010 game to New York provided the Jets' proposed 75,000-seat stadium is built.

Bidding on the 2009 Super Bowl is ongoing, and the site will be chosen at the May meeting in Washington. Tampa, Miami (host of the 2007 game), Houston and Atlanta have bid.

TV TALK: Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said the league is reviewing scenarios for the prime-time part of its TV package. CBS and Fox have agreed to pay a combined $8-billion over six years for the Sunday afternoon games.

He suggested Monday night games might go to cable with Sunday night games going to an over-the-air network.

WANTING SIMMS: Everywhere you went, you were asked: Why don't the Bucs like Chris Simms?

Bucs coach Jon Gruden wanted to set the record straight.

The team is excited about the future of its left-handed quarterback.

"He was a rookie on a team that was in a Super Bowl defense," Gruden said. "They had just won the world championship, so we apologize for that. In his second year playing, he started Week 5 and did a pretty good job. And when he got hurt, I'll say it one more time, ( Brian) Griese did a hell of a job."

When Griese got hurt, Simms, returned from a shoulder injury, but did not play well against Arizona. "What the guy needs, obviously, is to go out there and not listen to all the chat sessions and all this stuff," Gruden said. "Just go out there and play quarterback."