Replay Now Permanent In NFL

Wednesday, March 28th 2007, 7:59 am
By: News On 6

PHOENIX (AP) _ Coaches throwing challenge flags and referees sticking their heads in hoods will remain NFL fixtures. Forever.

On Tuesday, instant replay as an officiating tool became a permanent part of pro football.

``Instant replay is an accepted part of the game. It's what we are,'' said Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that recommended the change. ``There was not really much discussion about it.''

League owners voted 30-2, with Cincinnati and Arizona dissenting. All but three stadiums will be equipped with high-definition equipment and will be recabled before the upcoming season, at a cost of as much as $300,000 per club. The stadiums being replaced in Irving, Texas, Indianapolis and East Rutherford, N.J., will not get the updates.

McKay, once a staunch opponent of replay, has gone full circle, as have most owners.

``People like myself, I was an opponent of the old system, when the eye in the sky decided which play to review,'' he said. ``As the system was enhanced, with a limited system of challenges, a lot more became comfortable with how it operates. It's not too obtrusive with our game and it does not slow down games.

``I think coaches are more comfortable with it. They were hesitant with the challenge system, and I think they've become more comfortable.''

With replay out of the way, another controversial topic _ overtime _ will be addressed on Wednesday. In part, at least.

McKay was not optimistic that the recommendation to move the kickoff for overtime from the 30-yard line to the 35 would pass. He said some people were concerned about the effect on the return game, and that a group of owners would favor a mandatory two-possession overtime in which each team gets the ball once.

That has not been proposed, however. Nor has any system similar to the college overtimes, or a continuation of the game from where it ended after four quarters.

``I'm bothered by the stats with respect to overtime,'' McKay said, citing a significant spike since 1997 in how many teams won overtime games after also winning the coin toss. That percentage went from 55.9 from 1994-97 to 64.6 for the next four seasons. And after it dropped to 60 percent for 2002-05, it went up to 63.6 last season.

``We're a league that tries to balance the field and clearly the field is not balanced with respect to overtime with the kickoff.''

On Tuesday, owners also voted unanimously to allow a second interviewing window for assistant coaches on Super Bowl teams who are in the running for other head coaching jobs. Previously, only during the week after the season ended could an interview be conducted.

The coach's current team would have to grant permission for the second interview, which would take place during the bye week after the conference title games.

``We wanted to make sure that coaches on Super Bowl teams didn't feel it was a disadvantage,'' McKay said.

One proposal was defeated. Defenses will not be allowed to have a coach-to-player communications device similar to what quarterbacks use. McKay said owners and coaches were concerned about who would be allowed to wear the device with defenses using multiple formations, and the possibility that more than one player could wind up on the field with such a device.

``Conceivably, we'll bring it up again,'' McKay said. ``We haven't see its last discussion.''

The owners also will vote on Tampa Bay's proposal to use instant replay for all penalties except holding; increasing the number of players suited up for games from 45 to 47; and instituting 5-yard penalties for players who spike the ball on the field of play. Spikes in the end zone after scores would be allowed.

San Francisco withdrew its proposal to make defensive pass interference either a 15-yard penalty or a spot foul, depending on the severity of the infraction.