NFL owners quash modified replay plan Hot-dog helmet removal to draw 15-yard penalties

March 13, 1997|By Vito Stellino | Vito Stellino,SUN STAFF

PALM DESERT, Calif. -- NFL owners took a stand against instant replay and players' removing their helmets on the field yesterday.

With Bill Parcells, the new czar of the New York Jets, and Al Davis, the longtime czar of the Oakland Raiders, providing the critical swing votes, the owners turned down a modified instant replay plan when 10 of them voted no. The vote was 20-10 in favor, but 23 votes were needed for the plan to pass.

Once Parcells and Davis voted no, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who didn't want to be the eighth negative vote, joined the seven traditional replay opponents and also voted against the proposal.

In a surprise move, the owners also voted, 23-7, to ban players from taking their helmets off on the field. The penalty will be a 15-yard unsportsmanslike penalty.

A player can still take his helmet off during timeouts or in the bench area, but not while celebrating on the field or in the end zone.

Mike Holmgren, coach of the Green Bay Packers, cited one of his own players, Brett Favre, for taking his helmet off to celebrate his first touchdown pass in the Super Bowl.

"What we're trying to address here is player behavior, not to mention the fact you should always keep your helmet on for safety reasons," Holmgren said. "When a player takes his helmet off and does all the things he does, we felt it focuses too much on the individual, and that's something we're not trying to sell to our teams. We're trying to sell teamwork."

George Young, the other co-chairman, said, "The word sportsmanship doesn't seem to be used very often."

The replay issue was doomed when Parcells became upset that it was tied to timeouts and Davis didn't like the challenge aspect.

Under the proposal, each coach could use two challenges a game and would lose a timeout if they challenged -- even if the challenge was upheld.

Holmgren and Young said they wanted to force teams to use timeouts to exercise a challenge because they didn't want to lengthen the games.

Games averaged 3: 04 last year and the league wants to keep the time to around three hours because it likes to schedule games at 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.

Charley Casserly, the general manager of the Washington Redskins who was a leading proponent of replay, said replay would actually shorten the game because it would cut down on officials' conferences.

Instead of holding a conference, the referee would simply look at a sideline monitor and make a decision. But in an experiment used during the exhibtion season last year, it took an average of 2: 17 to rule on challenges.

The committee, though, refused to take the timeouts out of the proposal.

"Our name is not Neville Chamberlain," Young said in a reference to the former British prime minister who appeased Hitler at Munich in 1938.

"We're not in the appeasing business," Young said. "We're trying to present the best thing with checks and balances that will work. If we appease this group, it screws up something else. We thought we had pretty good balance."

Young has always opposed instant replay, but thought the committee should present a plan for the owners to vote on if they wanted to bring back replay.

The interesting thing is that five years after replay was thrown out by a 17-11 vote, only three teams changed their votes.

Of the 11 teams that voted no last time, nine voted no this time. Davis, who voted yes in 1992, switched to no. The Detroit Lions and Philadelphia Eagles switched from no to yes. The two expansion teams, Carolina and Jacksonville, voted yes.

Art Modell, the Ravens' owner, voted yes when he was in Cleveland in 1992 and remained a supporter of this modified plan.

But the hard-core block of seven teams remained opposed to any form of replay. It includes the New York Giants, Buffalo, Arizona, Cincinnati, Chicago, Kansas City and Tampa Bay.

Pub Date: 3/13/97

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