K3267 BC-FBN-NFLMEETINGS 04-02 0587

NFL owners approve several rules changes

By Barry Jackson

McClatchy Newspapers


PALM BEACH, Fla. — The NFL tabled a proposal to adjust the playoff seeding system, but approved several other rules Wednesday.


The league had discussed allowing wild-card teams to be seeded ahead of the division winner with the third- or fourth-best record, if they had a better record. But the proposal did not go to a formal vote because a show of hands made it clear that it didn’t have the required 24 "yes" votes to pass. The issue might be raised again at league meetings in May.

Among the rules that passed:

—The force-out rule was eliminated, meaning a player who catches a ball must have both feet (or another body part) in bounds.

—Teams winning the coin toss now can defer a decision until the second half. In college, teams choose to get the ball to start the second half 97 percent of the time, said Mike Pereira, the NFL’s head of officiating. But "after talking to a number of NFL coaches, many prefer to start on offense," said Titans coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the competition committee.

—Instant replay was expanded to include review of field goals (except those above either upright that don’t touch anything).

—Snaps untouched by a player in position to receive a hand-to-hand snap will no longer be a false start, and either team may recover and advance the ball.

—Muffed illegal forward handoffs will be treated as fumbles, and no longer as incomplete forward passes.

—Incidental grasp and release of the facemask, which was a five-yard penalty, will no longer be penalized. The 15-yard penalty remains intact for twisting, turning or pulling the mask.



New Redskins coach Jim Zorn said owner Daniel Snyder "had a toast" at a dinner party on Tuesday for former University of Miami star Sean Taylor, who would have turned 25 that day. Taylor was murdered at his Miami-area home last November. Taylor’s locker will be intact next season.

—Giants coach Tom Coughlin raved about linebacker Reggie Torbor, who was signed by the Dolphins last month. "He did a great job with his assignments, rushed the passer," Coughlin said. "He has a great attitude, works his tail off, is outstanding in the locker-room. I see the arrow going up."

—Coughlin dismissed trade rumors around former UM tight end Jeremy Shockey, who missed the playoffs and Super Bowl because of a broken left fibula sustained in December.

"Shockey has always been our starting tight end," Coughlin said. "It’s very unfortunate Jeremy was injured doing something he does very well — blocking."

—Cowboys coach Wade Phillips indicated he still considers recent addition Zach Thomas an upper-echelon linebacker and said two new Dolphins pickups — ex-Cowboys safety Keith Davis and cornerback Nate Jones — "are very good players" who can contribute beyond special teams.

—Bengals coach Marvin Lewis said disgruntled receiver Chad Johnson will not be traded.

—NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said "at some point, he will run out of patience" with former Patriots video employee Matt Walsh, who has hinted he has incriminating evidence against New England but is placing conditions on being interviewed.



(c) 2008, The Miami Herald.

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Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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