Controversial `tuck rule' is tabled for further review

Opinions divided, talks put off until May meetings

NFL meetings notebook

March 20, 2002|By Jamison Hensley | Jamison Hensley,SUN STAFF

ORLANDO, Fla. - The debate surrounding the "tuck rule" has been put away for a couple of months.

Since there was no consensus on how to change the rule, the league tabled all talks until the owners' meetings in May to allow all 32 teams a chance to study tapes involving balls being knocked loose from quarterbacks. The rule's current interpretation is that when a quarterback's throwing arm moves forward in a passing motion, it's considered a pass attempt even if he loses possession of the ball as he's trying to tuck it back toward his body.

This rule got national exposure when it affected the New England Patriots' AFC divisional playoff win over the Oakland Raiders. The discussion is so divided that even the co-chairmen of the competition committee - Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay and Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher - can't even agree.

"As we discussed it, it didn't get clearer, it got murkier," said McKay, who favors no changes.

Changes

The owners approved eight rule changes, which include:

Banning artificial noise in stadiums once the play clock has started. It will eliminate piping in music to disrupt the visitors' huddle but will not limit fan noise. Although it will not incur an on-the-field penalty, there will be a substantial fine.

Assessing personal foul penalties to defenders who inflict helmet-to-helmet hits on a quarterback when there is a change of possession because of a fumble or interception.

Altering the tiebreaker system as the league realigns from three to four divisions. Common opponents now become the third tiebreaker within a division after head-to-head games and division record because each of the four teams will have 14 common games in the 16-game schedule.

Making chop blocks (when two players execute high-low blocks that potentially can injure a defender) illegal on kickoff and punt returns as well as on plays from scrimmage.

End zone

Tight end Shannon Sharpe, one of the 19 remaining Ravens free agents, would return to the Denver Broncos even if it means taking less money than another team would offer, said his agent, Marvin Demoff. ... Indianapolis Colts coach Tony Dungy on his signing receiver Qadry Ismail: "To go along with the guys we have, he's really going to help us spread the field and open up the offense even more." ... The meetings are expected to wrap up today with no major issues on the agenda.

Wire reports contributed to this article.

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