- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 14, 2002

A Super Bowl in Landover or New Jersey, the now-infamous "tuck" rule, pumped-in crowd noise and unsportsmanlike conduct will be some of the topics on the agenda at the NFL's annual spring meeting next week in Orlando, Fla.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue has been pushing for consideration of a cold-weather Super Bowl since the September 11 terrorist attacks on Washington and New York, but NFL senior vice president Joe Browne said the idea likely won't be voted on in Orlando. Neither FedEx Field nor Giants Stadium is eligible to play host to the title game because their average late January temperatures are below 50 degrees.

"The Patriots-Raiders game has made cold weather games in vogue," Browne allowed.

That was also the playoff game in which New England quarterback Tom Brady's critical, supposed fumble was determined to have been an incomplete pass because of the "tuck" rule. The Patriots kept the ball and went on to win the Super Bowl.

"It's a very bright line … we're talking about whether it should be modified," said Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the NFL's eight-man competition committee. "The rule says that the ball must be completely tucked into the body and then come out in order to lose possession. But what about when the quarterback's motion is stopped and he's pulling the ball back in? Could that be a fumble?"

McKay's committee also will re-emphasize to owners, GMs and coaches its desire to eliminate most chop blocks, hits on "defenseless" players and the playing of music or artificial crowd noise when a visiting team has the ball and the clock is running. The competition committee also hopes to clarify when a quarterback can ground the ball without being penalized. However, compared to some March meetings when there were major fights over such issues as instant replay, this one figures to be on the quiet side.

"The game's in pretty good shape," McKay said, noting that scoring (40.4 points per game last season) and the number of plays (152.9) both remained above the desired averages while penalties and quarterback injuries declined substantially and the number of games decided by a touchdown or less (48 percent) was the highest since 1993.

Games also took a few seconds less to play last season than in 2000, averaging just under 3:05. And McKay noted that only two teams (Oakland in 2001 and Jacksonville in 1999) repeated their division titles during the past three seasons.

"The competitive balance is obviously pretty good," McKay said.

Browne also said he expects the 2002 schedule which could be tweaked during the year to provide for better late-season national television matchups and which could well include prime-time playoff games for a second straight year to be released in late March.

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