- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 27, 2004

NFL club owners will consider making instant replay a permanent part of games when they gather next week for the league’s annual spring meeting.

Replay now seems like a fixture, but it has required the approval of ownership for renewal nearly every year since it was introduced in 1986. In fact, replay was voted out in 1992 and not brought back until 1999.

However, the league’s eight-member competition committee voted unanimously last week to make replay permanent, a proposal that requires the approval of 24 of the 32 owners to pass.

“The dreaded instant replay is back,” said Atlanta Falcons general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee. “The committee unanimously recommended replay as a permanent rule so that we don’t have to discuss it in the future.”

The owners also will discuss rules that govern the hiring of coaches and front office personnel on playoff teams, penalties for excessive on-field celebrations, increasing the number of playoff teams from 12 to 14, giving each team at least one possession in overtime and the league’s revenue-sharing agreement.

The meetings are scheduled for Monday through Wednesday in Palm Beach, Fla.

The replay proposal includes a minor tweak: Teams that are successful on their two challenges would receive a third. Replay is considered to have a much better chance of gaining approval than the proposals on overtime and expanding the playoffs.

The overtime plan proposed by the Kansas City Chiefs received 17 votes last March, seven short of passage. McKay said that since the number of games won on the first overtime possession dropped significantly in 2003, his bellwether committee has moved from a split to opposition on the issue.

The Chiefs also are sponsoring the plan to expand the playoff field, a proposal that drew so little support last March that it was tabled and not even brought to a vote at the next meeting in May. Commissioner Paul Tagliabue opposed the plan.

McKay said about 50 players were fined by the league last season for excessive celebrations, nearly three times the number from 2002. That includes multiple-player touchdown celebrations as well as those involving “extraneous objects.” Last season, for example, Joe Horn of the New Orleans Saints hid a cell phone in the goal post padding and pulled it out to make a call after scoring a touchdown.

The National Federation of State High School Associations and the NCAA urged the NFL to force players to set a better sportsmanship example. In response, the league’s competition committee recommended that players who would be fined for excessive celebration also incur a 15-yard penalty imposed on the next kickoff.

Also, the master business agreement that maintains the league’s shared-revenue structure expires at the end of the month.

Many conservative owners want a simple extension of the existing 40-year-old arrangement, which earns about $4million for each franchise each year (compared to $80million in television revenue). However, more aggressive owners, such as the Washington Redskins’ Dan Snyder and Dallas Cowboys’ Jerry Jones, are seeking changes that will allow them to retain more local sponsorship, licensing and merchandising revenues.

Staff writer Eric Fisher contributed to this report.

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