- The Washington Times - Wednesday, March 20, 2002

ORLANDO The tuck rule lives.
With the NFL's competition committee divided on changing the rule as to when a quarterback is still trying to throw the ball as opposed to trying to prevent it from being stripped, at their spring meeting here yesterday the owners decided to postpone a vote on the issue at least until their next meeting in Houston in May.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers general manager Rich McKay, the committee co-chairman, said that while there were four or five tuck-related plays from last season that appeared on instant replay to be fumbles, the next 10 were "very murky."
McKay said changing the rule so that the ball didn't have to be completely tucked into the quarterback's body would switch the presumption from an incomplete pass to a fumble. That would lead to many more turnovers because the call could only be overturned by clear evidence on replay.
Even Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, the co-chairman who supports the change, said he doesn't want a "knee-jerk" change in the wake of the controversial play in the New England-Oakland playoff game.
Seven proposed rules changes passed at the meetings. Only one didn't receive enough votes: eliminating a second onside kick if the first one went out of bounds or didn't travel the required 10 yards. That rule received only 18 of the 24 votes needed to make a change.
"The idea has always been that onside kicks are exciting plays and [people] don't want to remove exciting plays," McKay said. "The coaches say they're not going to try an onside kick in the second quarter because if it's short, they don't want to risk giving the other team the ball [so far downfield]. I think a Hail Mary's exciting, but I'm not sure that you should get a second shot at it."
Kansas City's resolution to make all 53 players active each week failed, but the owners did vote to eliminate music or artificially-generated crowd noise being played when the visiting team has the ball and the play clock is running.
Also, with division rivals now playing all 14 of the same teams each year, common games moved ahead of conference record as the third playoff tiebreaker after head-to-head and division record. Strength of victory (the records of the teams beaten) was added as the fifth tiebreaker ahead of strength of schedule.
The reported change in television matchups for the season's final four weeks is not a done deal. NFL spokesman Greg Aiello: "It's something we would like to happen , but we have to talk to the networks about it."
Fox and CBS are opposed to the idea of giving up one of their best Sunday games in order to boost ABC's ratings on Monday night.
Meanwhile, the owners tabled a vote on acquiring between 25 percent and 49.9 percent of the Arena League. The option to do so expires on Mar.31 although it's believed it could be renewed. While approving the involvement of eight of their brethren in Arena Ball, many owners don't want the NFL so closely tied to the minor league.
The eight NFL owners who own franchise rights in the Arena League are Washington's Dan Snyder, Dallas' Jerry Jones, Denver's Pat Bowlen, Detroit's William Clay Ford, Jacksonville's Wayne Weaver, New Orleans' Tom Benson, San Francisco's John York and Tennessee's Bud Adams.

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