Owner's Meeting Notebook - 4/2/08

PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Defense has gone high-tech in the NFL, even though some offensive-minded coaches tried to keep it from happening. Just like quarterbacks on offense, defensive players will now be able to have transmitters in their helmets to communicate with coaches on the sideline.

The measure passed by a vote of 25-7 Tuesday, with 24 positive votes required to pass. Last year, a similar system failed, 22-10.

The change this year from last year's proposal allows a second player to be inserted into the game with a special helmet. However, at no time can two players with speakers in their helmet be on the field at the same time. Both the primary player and backup player must be designated before the game, and each must report to the umpire upon entering the game.

Bears coach Lovie Smith, who was a defensive coordinator with the Rams before becoming a head coach, said, "To me, it's an easy decision. You have one side of the football that can communicate between a coach and player. Why not do it on both sides?"

Apparently, some of Smith counterparts on that other side of the ball didn't agree. Voting against were Green Bay, Oakland, Philadelphia, St. Louis, Seattle, Tampa Bay and Washington. All have head coaches with an offensive background.

Had the league approved the rule last year, the Spygate controversy that has hovered over the league since last September likely would never have happened. Patriots coach Bill Belichick said he has always supported the communication system.

"I've been for the defensive communication system since it was proposed," he said. "The problem, I think, is just how to do it effectively -- the procedure of it, not the concept of it. I don't know that it's going to eliminate the need for signals, unless a team like Chicago that has a guy like Brian Urlacher on the field for every play -- their middle linebacker, their defensive signal-caller -- it will probably be fine for them.

"But for a team that utilizes different personnel, and maybe you don't have your signal-caller necessarily on the field for every play -- you have some kind of a rotation or substitution pattern -- you're going to have to find another way to do it."

The Arena Football League is using a communications device for the first time this season. Although the league's season is still ongoing, so far there have been more defensive stops, fewer penalties and an increase in scoring.

Said Shy Anderson, chief operating officer of the Dallas Desperados and chairman of the league's Rules and Competition Committee, "What ultimately led to the rule change in October was fair competition due to the high level of energy that our fans, and players, emit during a typical Arena Football game. That energy level is so high that at times the defense wasn't on equal ground to the offense. Since adding defensive communication devices, there have been more defensive stops and less penalties, but no change to the AFL's game atmosphere."


It was first reported the day before the Super Bowl this year that a St. Louis Rams walkthrough the day before Super Bowl XXXVI had been taped by the New England Patriots. Four weeks ago, the league said an agreement was close with former Patriots video employee Matt Walsh to hear what he knows. Yet, there is still no agreement in place.

Asked why everyone is still waiting, Commissioner Roger Goodell said, "Do you know lawyers? We are making progress, I think. I'm a little frustrated, as you can see. Matt Walsh is free to speak to anybody, but he has asked for some considerations. We have met with over 50 people and he's the only one that had indicated that he has conditions. We are trying to respect that.

"I am very anxious to meet with him. He has indicated or implied through the media that he may have information that I'm not aware of. If he has either a tape or information that would be helpful, I would be eager to get it."

At the league meeting, Patriots coach Bill Belichick denied being part of any taping of a practice. Said Belichick, "In my career I have never seen a tape of another practice, authorized one, or anything else.
So I don't know (why it's still an issue). Allegations have been out there, but there has really been nothing to substantiate it. Nobody has come forward with anything else that there is really to address."

Asked if he believes there needs to be an agreement with Walsh for the team to move forward, Belichick said, "I would say we've already moved forward. I don't feel there is any truth to the allegations, so there isn't anything for us to do differently. We didn't make the allegations and I haven't seen anything to support them.

"We've already moved on and are trying to prepare for the 2008 season. That's what we've been doing, and I don't see that changing."


Another day passed with no agreement between the Cowboys and Titans on the future of cornerback Pacman Jones. The Titans reportedly are seeking a fourth-round pick for Jones, who is currently serving a league suspension. But Cowboys owner Jerry Jones is likely hesitant to part with a pick in this year's draft when there is no guarantee Jones will be reinstated by Commissioner Roger Goodell. Pacman Jones was suspended on April 10, 2007, for one year.

However, after Jones was in a strip club in January, Goodell responded by banning Jones from the Titans facility and adding that he wouldn't review the suspension until before training camp in July. Earlier at the league meeting, Jerry Jones had said, "It's probable if we're going to get something done, we'll do it while we're here at these meetings. We've got some more talks we've got to do with the Titans, and we will do that while we're here."

While Pacman Jones has said he hopes to be reinstated before the draft, Goodell said he has no plans to do that.

"In my last correspondence with Adam, I told him I would make a decision prior to training camp," Goodell said. "I've always said he has to accept responsibilities for his actions and when he does that I would reconsider his status. I don't feel any obligation to do any more than I said, which is to reconsider his status. If he doesn't meet that standard, I don't feel any obligation to reinstate him."

Added Manny Arora, Jones' agent, "I totally understand the commissioner has to do his job. There is nothing we can do except heed the Commissioner's word and do what we have to do to show him (Jones is) a better person than what appears publicly. Hopefully, it will work."

Arora also knows that should the draft pass, any Titans urgency to get a deal done will be diminished. He said, "They know what they are doing. They are testing the market. ... But at some point, there is not going to be a market for him. If the draft comes and goes, his value for them reduces.

"They have already made it publicly known that he needs to find another home. Hopefully, it will be Dallas."


--It seemed ironic that on the same day NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell talked about difficult economic times for the NFL, the league unanimously approved the sale of 50 percent of the Dolphins, Dolphin Stadium and undeveloped land around it for $550 million to Stephen Ross. While owner Wayne Huizenga will eventually sell most of the rest of the team to Ross, Huizenga will still own five percent for the rest of his life. Said Huizenga, "I hope they win a championship while (Ross) is there. I hope they win a lot of championships. I'll have just as much fun watching them lift the trophy (whether as sole owner or otherwise). I love the Dolphins, and I want to be a part of it."

Asked why he bought the team, Ross said, "I could afford it."

--As expected, the proposal to have players' hair not cover either the name on their jersey or the number was tabled until at least May. Wednesday, owners will votes on rules:
--To eliminate the force-out and require receivers to always have two feet in bounds for a catch.
--Create a five- or seven-day window before the start of free agency where agents could talk to teams about potential free agents. Deals could be negotiated and visits planned, but no contracts can be signed and contact with the player would be prohibited.
--Eliminate the five-yard penalty for incidental contact with a facemask and have only a 15-yard penalty for grabbing or twisting the facemask.
--To not guarantee a home game to division winners, thus seeding the first round of the playoffs by record.
--Allow instant replay reviews of field goals for attempts involving kicks that go over the crossbar or through the uprights, but not for kicks that are higher than the uprights.
--Allow teams that win the coin toss to defer to the second half and be able to take the ball at the start of the second half.
--That would increase offseason roster size to 90 players. The absence of NFL Europe eliminates roster exemptions for those players, thereby making camp rosters smaller. Tampa Bay submitted the proposal, as well as one that would increase the game-day active roster to 47 players (including the third quarterback), as long as the 47th player is solely a long snapper.

Howard Balzer is a Senior Writer for The Sports Xchange. His stories can be read at www.mysportspage.com.

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