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League decrees: 'Play nice'

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© St. Petersburg Times,
published September 9, 2001

Welcome to a kinder, gentler National Football League.

The NFL opens what it hopes will be its most aesthetically pleasing season in years. There are new rules and greater emphasis on old ones designed to further clean up a league scarred by off-field incidents within the past year.

Of particular interest is the focus on sportsmanship. Specifically, the league is out to curb taunting, that in-your-face, I'm-gonna-get-you-sucker bravado that has been commonplace after touchdowns, big hits and long gains.

Also, the league's new rule prohibiting bandanas, stocking caps and skull caps, unless for medical reasons, goes into effect. And there will be a greater emphasis on protecting the quarterback with more closely-called penalties for roughing the passer.

"Whatever happens during a game, someone is watching," NFLPA executive director Gene Upshaw said. " ... We have to be very careful not to let our game slip. That is why we decided that we had to take a position on sportsmanship and bring it back to what the game is all about."

The taunting rule figures to cause the most controversy among players.

"I don't like to see anybody taunt a guy," Raiders receiver Tim Brown said, "but at the same time, when you're in head-to-head competition with somebody, you catch a pass, you ought to be able to look at him and say, 'I got you, brother.' "

STAT OF THE WEEK: The Ravens defense hasn't allowed a 100-yard rushing day since Chicago's James Allen ran for 167 yards against Baltimore on Dec. 20, 1998.

Guess who the Ravens face today? Yep, Allen and the Bears.

Said linebacker Ray Lewis: "It won't happen again."

WHAT WOULD YOU DO?: Not that the Dolphins need extra motivation for their season opener against the Titans tonight, but team officials taped a quotation to every player's locker last week that read: "When you want something you've never had, you have to do something you've never done."

Said coach Dave Wannstedt: "It was something we used last year for one game to kind of give them something to think about."

Here's something else to think about: Miami is 20-4 in season openers, including nine consecutive wins, the longest current streak.

QUOTE OF THE WEEK: Bears defensive coordinator Greg Blache, insulted that the Ravens-Bears game wasn't chosen for ABC's opening Monday Night Football game (It's Giants-Broncos) because the Bears aren't expected to be competitive: "They're treating us like we're a bye."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK II: Blache, asked if the Bears' defensive front will get any sacks against the Ravens: "We'll find out (today). I haven't talked to Miss Cleo yet this week."

QUOTE OF THE WEEK III: Brown, the Raiders' receiver talking about the replacement refs who'll work at least the first few regular season games: "I really believe, and I'm serious about this, we may be the only team in the league that may benefit from replacement refs. There's no doubt in my mind people come into Raiders games with preconceived notions about what's going on in the games, and with these guys, I told one the other day, 'Just do what I tell you to do and everything will be fine.' "

DID YOU KNOW?: The Eagles have a player, Stephen Neal, on their practice squad who is a Greco-Roman wrestler who hasn't played football since high school, seven years ago.

MY BAD: The Vikings defense has lagged the past few years and, frankly, the Vikings say it's the Bucs' fault.

Minnesota coach Dennis Green said the team's defense started going sour when the Bucs hired Tony Dungy, who had been the Vikings' defensive coordinator.

"I think when we lost Tony, we lost our way on (defense)," Green said.

GRUDGE MATCH: Washington's game at San Diego marks the first time the Chargers' Norv Turner will face his old team.

"I would think it almost has to be special for him," said Cowboys consultant Ernie Zampese, one of Turner's old buddies.

Turner was fired last season as the Redskins coach.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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