- The Washington Times - Friday, February 22, 2008

INDIANAPOLIS — Members of the NFL’s competition committee said yesterday the punishment given to the New England Patriots will prevent a repeat of the Spygate debacle that continues to linger thanks to Sen. Arlen Specter’s search as to why the league office destroyed the evidence.

But committee co-chairmen Rich McKay and Jeff Fisher said a proposal is being developed that allows a single defensive player to have one-way radio communication with his sideline, much like a quarterback does now.

“I view it as something that’s happened and has been dealt with severely,” said McKay, the Atlanta Falcons’ president, at yesterday’s NFL Scouting Combine. “In my mind, it’s yesterday’s news. That doesn’t mean there aren’t discussions ongoing.”

The Patriots admitted to videotaping several games aside from the angles approved under NFL rules. The latest revelation was an accusation the Patriots taped the St. Louis Rams’ walkthrough the day before Super Bowl XXXVI.

Patriots coach Bill Belichick apologized earlier this week for the transgressions but denied the team taped the walkthrough.

In September, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell robbed the Patriots of their first-round draft pick and fined the team $250,000 and Belichick $500,000.

The league presented how it conducted the investigation, what the evidence showed and how Goodell arrived at the punishment to the competition committee.

“The process was fair, efficient and detailed,” Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said.

Spygate doesn’t fall under the competition committee’s umbrella. But the ripple effect is in its domain, and the committee again is expected to present a rule allowing the defensive side to have radio communication.

“We’ve attempted over the last few years to get the system in,” Fisher said. “We’re currently discussing modifying the proposal to give it a better chance of getting in. But we’re still discussing how we handle a backup situation in the event your identified defensive starter is injured.”

A likely scenario: If, for example, Washington Redskins linebacker London Fletcher is the identified player with communication, another Redskins starter would swap to a custom-fit helmet that includes a radio if Fletcher were injured.

“Last year, I was in favor of it for a linebacker or safety,” Buffalo coach Dick Jauron said. “There’s some issues involved with it. How many do you have? But I’m in favor of it. I think it’s a distinctive advantage for the offense.”

In other league issues:

• McKay said teams are on “both sides of the fence” on whether to change the playoff seeding procedure.

“The concern is that in some divisions there are several really good football teams and they wouldn’t have a chance to play a home game so a 12-4 team might travel to a 9-7 team,” McKay said. “We’ve always emphasized the importance of winning your division and knowing that if you do that, you get a home game.”

Last season, if the teams with the better records would have had home-field advantage, the Giants (10-6) would have played at home against Tampa Bay (9-7) and Jacksonville (11-5) would have played host to Pittsburgh (10-6). Both road teams won, but the bigger point is a team like the Buccaneers laying down in their final two games because the division was wrapped up.

“It’s something we’ll look at, and it’s fair to say it’s an issue,” Indianapolis Colts general manager Bill Polian said. “That’s one of the arguments for reseeding.”

• There probably won’t be a rule preventing coaches from calling timeouts when the opposing team is on the cusp of snapping for a field goal.

“We saw three to four instances of that early in the season, and the opinion is that all you need to happen is the coach call time out once, the field goal is no good, but then the ball is kicked again and it is good,” Fisher said. “After that, it died off. It was an early season trend that we won’t see much more of. There were a lot of solutions, and one was not letting me call time out when the play clock got under 10 seconds. What if I have 12 guys on the field and don’t recognize it until there is less 10 seconds remaining? You have to be able to call a timeout.”

• The league has yet to decide how many players each team can bring to training camp — 88 or 80. In years past, each team carried 80 plus eight NFL Europe-exempt players who could be on the roster until the final cutdown. While a money-loser for the owners, the league did help develop dozens of players.

“It was important in the development of quarterbacks and offensive linemen,” Baltimore Ravens executive vice president Ozzie Newsome said. “We’ll still be able to develop those players, but we’ll have to come up with other ways to do it.”

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