WASHINGTON - Defense took another hit yesterday when NFL owners voted 27-5 to ban horse-collar tackles in the open field.
The new rule, which will be unofficially known as the Roy Williams Rule, gained favor after a season in which the Dallas Cowboys safety was responsible for at least three serious injuries using that technique.
Williams ended the season for Ravens running back Musa Smith and Tennessee wide receiver Tyrone Calico by grabbing them from behind by the back of the jersey and yanking the players down. Smith suffered a compound fracture of his right tibia and Calico injured both knees.
The same maneuver also prematurely ended the regular season of Philadelphia wide receiver Terrell Owens, who returned to the team for the Super Bowl.
The new rule will not apply to tackles in the so-called "tackle box" at the line of scrimmage or to bringing down quarterbacks in the pocket.
A violation will result in a 15-yard penalty for unsportsmanlike conduct and a possible fine.
Among the five owners who voted against the new penalty was Cowboys owner Jerry Jones. "I would rather it to have been a fine," he said.
Rich McKay, general manager of the Atlanta Falcons and co-chairman of the competition committee that recommended the change, does not like the perception that the league is penalizing Williams in particular.
"You don't try to target one player. You try to target the future of the tactic," McKay said.
Share and share alike?
Perhaps the hottest topic of discussion at the two-day owners' meetings is the subject of shared and unshared revenue. Small-market owners like Ralph Wilson of the Buffalo Bills are pressing for all teams to share all revenue, including stadium income and signage monies.
Jones is among the owners who don't want to go that route. He said there has been a suggestion to provide an assistance fund for teams that are struggling financially.
"To the extent we have teams that are in a financial situation that can't compete, I'll be the first in line to help those teams compete," Jones said. "That's very doable."
Vikings on hold
The owners aren't likely to vote on the proposed $625 million sale of the Minnesota Vikings today to New Jersey developer Zygmunt Wilf because there are a number of minor issues that need to be cleared up.
Wilf replaced Reggie Fowler as the majority partner when Fowler was unable to meet an NFL mandate that the lead partner be responsible for one-third of the purchase price. Fowler, who would have become the league's first African-American majority owner, will remain in the group as a minority stockholder.