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Owners to vote on several major changes

KAPALUA, Hawaii (March 23, 2005) -- Mike Pereira sat in front of a video screen and watched several botched calls by his referees and linesmen. They were a vast minority of the total calls, but they still irked the NFL's director of officiating.

Pereira and the league's competition committee were hopeful some of those missed calls would be eliminated when owners vote on several rules proposals.

Most notable would be the inclusion of down-by-contact penalties as part of the instant replay review system. Coaches would be able to challenge such calls involving a potential change of possession.

"The theory being it's one of the big holes in the replay system," Pereira said at the league's annual meetings. "As (Texans GM) Charley Casserly said today, the most important play is a scoring play, and the second-most important is a change-of-possession play.

"If we can get it reviewed, we've filled a hole in the system."

If the whistle has sounded but there is uncertainty if a ball carrier lost possession before or after the play was blown dead, a coach can throw the red flag; there will be no buzzer system for coaches to use anymore. While any return of the loose ball won't count, the defense would get the takeaway if replay shows the fumble occurred before the whistle.

But if evidence is inconclusive, the down-by-contact call will stand.

"It has to be absolutely obvious who recovered," Pereira said.

The change would be a one-year experiment. Replay was passed for a five-year period last March.

Pereira and competition committee co-chairmen Jeff Fisher, coach of the Titans, and Rich McKay, GM of the Falcons, acknowledged there is some opposition to the proposal because of fear it could lead to more injuries. Players could be tempted to play well beyond the whistle.

But Pereira said players regularly do play through the whistle and go for a recovery when there is a loose ball.

Another proposal that would seem to be a slam-dunk for passage is outlawing the so-called "horse-collar tackle," in which a defender grabs the back inside of an opponent's shoulder pads and yanks down to make the tackle. Several such instances resulted in serious injuries last season, most notably Dallas safety Roy Williams ' tackle of Eagles All-Pro receiver Terrell Owens.

"The coaches are concerned," Pereira said. "There is a trend of injuries and those of a serious nature, for this tackle."

One of those coaches, Bill Belichick of the two-time champion New England Patriots, isn't sure where he stands on the issue.

"I can see why it's being brought up, where it's coming from," he said. "A lot of tackles, where a guy gets his hand on the shoulder pad, a player doesn't get hurt. There are a lot of in-line plays. There's a lot of things to think about.

"Anytime you write a rule, you might solve one problem, but there are other residuals to it. I think we just need to look at those carefully, and until you actually see the rule as it's presented, it's hard to kind of picture what exactly the ramifications of it would be."

New York moved a step closer to getting the 2010 Super Bowl when an advisory committee approved the Jets' bid to host the game, contingent on the construction of a new, retractable roof stadium on the West Side of Manhattan. The owners were expected to vote on the bid March 23.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who has supported a Super Bowl in New York since the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, backed the bid. The 2009 Super Bowl has not yet been awarded. Atlanta, Miami, Houston and Tampa are bidding for the game, which is expected to be awarded at meetings this spring.

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