Do-Over Policy Adopted For Punts At New Cowboys Stadium

By: AP Email
By: AP Email

ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Jerry Jones can keep his video boards right where they are, at least for this season.

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell on Friday clarified rules on punts that ricochet off the high-definition monitors hanging over most of the field at the new Cowboys Stadium. Perhaps the key part of his announcement is that the guidelines cover only this season, an indication the league may force Jones to raise the boards before the 2010 season, which ends with the Super Bowl in his building.

The league clearly wouldn't want even the remote possibility of a championship decided by a ball hitting a TV screen within a punter's reach.

"We will continue to address the particular circumstances in Dallas, giving full consideration to the competitive, safety and fan experience issues involved," Goodell said in a statement. "The Cowboys have been fully cooperative as we have addressed this subject, and we will continue to work closely with the club on a longer term resolution."

Long-term changes can be made only at the annual rules meeting. However, Goodell noted that Rule 3, Section 1 of the league rule book allows for changes new policy to be enacted for the current season only.

On his radio show, Jones said he's pleased to have this settled. He also reiterated his stance that "I don't see it as ultimately an issue" because punts rarely are kicked that high down the middle of the field because teams prefer pinning returners closer to the sideline.

Still, he knows it will be talked about every game, from Saturday night's preseason game against San Francisco and throughout the regular season.

"You can anticipate the ball hitting the board from time to time," he said. "There's no reason why this can't be something (for punters) to deal with very similar to the way you'd deal with the wind in your face or with elements; rain, sleet or snow."

The video boards are the signature item of the $1.15 billion stadium because of their clarity and size: 60 yards long, stretching from 20-yard line to 20-yard line. The problem is they are 90 feet above the field.

While that is 5 feet above the league's standard, the ease Tennessee punters had kicking balls into the boards before -- and once during -- last Saturday night's debut game indicates that standard might need revision.

Coincidentally, Titans coach Jeff Fisher is head of the NFL's competition committee, which is the group that worked with the league office to figure out how to handle balls conking off the boards.

Fisher's complaint went beyond the height. He realized officials didn't even see the ball hitting the boards because they were all watching the action on the field; he threw his challenge flag to make sure they realized what had happened. The ruling was a do-over, but time was not put back on the clock.

The new rules -- which apply to all stadiums even though it's only an issue at this one -- address those concerns.

Downs will still be replayed "if a ball in play strikes a video board, guide wire, sky cam, or any other object," but now the game clock will be reset to the time when the first play was snapped. Any penalties during the wiped-out play won't count, except for personal fouls.

Also, if officials on the field don't see the ball hitting the board, the replay assistant can now initiate a booth review at any time. If the replay assistant doesn't ask for a review, coaches can challenge under normal challenge rules.

Jones has been a staunch defender of the height of his boards for various reasons, including how much time and money it could cost to hike them. (They cost about $40 million to install.)

The boards are going higher to fit the stage for a U2 concert in October, but the screens will have to be disconnected. To lift the boards and keep them operable will require engineering and architectural adjustments.

Cowboys punter Mat McBriar supports Jones' stance about directional kicks taking the boards out of play. Both say Titans punters intentionally kicked high and down the middle to try hitting the boards; after all, it was just a preseason game.

"It's kind of like a home run derby when you don't have to worry about striking out," Jones said. "You can pretty much do what you want to do."

McBriar has yet to hit the boards and he insists "no one has told me not to hit it." He definitely has the leg to reach it -- he topped 100 feet during a trial two years ago when Jones was deciding the height -- but always aims his kicks away from the center of the field.

"It looks lower than it is just because of the size of it," McBriar said.

Former Cowboys coach Jimmy Johnson was in the stadium Thursday and said he didn't see any reason to raise the boards.

"If there's anything wrong, it's that people are going to watch the video board and not the game," he said. "It is so dominating, but I think it's so cool. I think it's great."


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