NFL Nation: A.J. Trapasso

ARLINGTON, Texas -- Now that Chris Jones has hit the center-hung digital board at AT&T Stadium with a punt, Cowboys owner and general manager Jerry Jones has a plan in place.

“Lowering it,” Jerry Jones joked Saturday after Dallas' 24-18 preseason victory over Cincinnati. “Probably too high.”

The Cowboys paid the biggest price for Jones hitting the board because Brandon Tate took the re-kick 75 yards for a touchdown. The officials needed replay to change the call on the field.

Chris Jones became the second punter to hit the board. On Aug. 21, 2009, the first game at the stadium, Tennessee’s A.J. Trapasso hit the Mitsubishi Electric sign that hung below the board. The NFL instituted a re-kick immediately, and coaches feared the coverage unit would be tired from covering the first punt.

Tate was barely touched on his return.

“We didn’t get in our lanes and didn’t make the plays when we were there,” coach Jason Garrett said.

Jones said he was told after the game of his historic -- perhaps -- punt, but he did not change how he approached the rest of his chances.

“It’s not a mindset that I have to adjust to be like, ‘OK, I’ve got to kick a liner. I’ve got to kick it lower or not as hard or any of that stuff,’” Jones said. “I just go and try and hit the same ball every time. I got every piece of that ball and it ended up hitting the scoreboard. ... I had a good ball on the next one I think I had 4.89 or 4.9 hang time, which is pretty good.”

There have been 274 regular-season punts at AT&T Stadium without a punt hitting the digital board.
ARLINGTON, Texas -- Chris Jones became the first Cowboys punter to hit the center-hung scoreboard at AT&T Stadium with a first-quarter boot against Cincinnati on Saturday.

Tennessee’s A.J. Trapasso hit the board in the first football game played at the stadium on Aug. 21, 2009.

The officials did not notice the punt hit the board and needed video replay to force the Cowboys to punt again. The NFL instituted a re-kick rule after Trapasso’s punt, but it had never come into play before Saturday’s game. Trapasso’s punt hit a Mitsbushi Electric sign that was under the board. The sign was moved to the top of the board and has since been removed altogether.

On the re-kick, Cincinnati wide receiver Brandon Tate scored on a 75-yard touchdown to give the Bengals a 7-0 lead.

There was a fear among coaches that a re-kick would tire out the coverage units. Tate was hardly touched on the return with tight end James Hanna missing him in the open field before Tate ran away from Jones.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

The fact that a free-agent rookie punter for the Titans booted a ball off the super-sized video board at Cowboys Stadium on Friday quickly became one of the biggest stories in the league. The fact that Peter King led his Monday Morning Quarterback column with a punting story over Brett Favre's debut with the Vikings is pretty remarkable in itself.

Jones is one of the most respected owners in the league, but I'm afraid folks on the NFL's competition committee aren't going to give him the benefit of the doubt. I thought the following anecdote from Colts general manager Bill Polian was pretty telling:

"The irony is that our stadium architect (at new Lucas Oil Stadium) wanted to hang the video boards the same way in our stadium," Polian told King. "So we put a metal beam about 90 feet above the ground and had our punter at the time, Hunter Smith, punt the ball up there trying to hit it. He hit it the majority of the time. That's why we put our replay boards on the wall."

The message is clear: If Hunter Smith can reach the 90-foot-high scoreboard, something's wrong. I've read several stories suggesting that Jones should be embarrassed by what happened Friday. Why didn't he do his homework on how high punters kick the ball?

Well, my opinion is that Jones knew this was going to happen. And the man's shameless, which makes it tough to embarrass him. With this controversy, his new stadium has been part of the news cycle for three days now. Fans and reporters alike are fascinated by the implications of having a scoreboard that's in the field of play.

It's like Jones owns a miniature golf course -- and he can't have enough windmills. He had a sly grin on his face Friday as he explained how normal NFL punts shouldn't hit the enormous scoreboard. But I think he had to know this would happen.

The Red Sox have the Green Monster, the Cowboys now have the Blue HD Monster. When Jones dropped the phrase "entertainment value" on me late Friday evening, he wasn't talking about how great the screen looked. He envisions a situation in which punters have to take the scoreboard into account and make sure they kick around it.

In a lot of ways, rookie punter A.J. Trapasso did Jones a huge favor. He gave Friday's debut a memorable sideshow. In the end, I think Jones will be forced to raise the video board about 20 feet. A Cowboys player told me Friday night that he'd heard the Cowboys were already raising the scoreboard in October to make room for U2's giant stage. ESPN's Chris Mortensen backed that scenario up with his report Sunday.

If the Cowboys can raise the scoreboard for Bono, they should extend Jeff Feagles the same courtesy.

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

The Colts considered a hanging video board at Lucas Oil Stadium, but ran a simple test that prompted them not to follow through with it.

Here's what team Bill Polian told Peter King about it:

"The irony is that our stadium architect [at new Lucas Oil Stadium] wanted to hang the videoboards the same way in our stadium. So we put a metal beam about 90 feet above the ground and had our punter at the time, Hunter Smith, punt the ball up there trying to hit it. He hit it the majority of the time. That's why we put our replay boards on the wall.''

In the wake of Titans punter A.J. Trapasso hitting the Cowboys Stadium Megatron (wish I remembered where I heard that term so I could give appropriate credit), the status of things in Dallas is a big issue drawing a lot of debate.

How can they do anything but move it up?

Posted by ESPN.com's Paul Kuharsky

ARLINGTON, Texas -- The biggest story out of the Cowboys' 30-10 preseason win over the Titans in the football debut for Cowboys Stadium was the enormous video board factoring into play. NFC East guru Matt Mosley and I showed the preseason teamwork capabilities of the blog network by combining on this news story about it.

The short version: The Titans think the scoreboard is a huge issue for punters; Jerry Jones thinks of it more like a windmill on a miniature golf course. [Full disclosure, I borrowed that line from Matt.]

One additional quote from Craig Hentrich on the issue: "It's a bad situation when you've got guys that can hit it four or five times in a row, you've got your guys covering down the field four or five times in a row and you're having to redo it and redo it. It's a serious issue. It's pretty cool to see [the giant video board], but you hit a great punt and you hit the scoreboard, then what if you shank one? It's penalizing a great punt and that's not the way it's supposed to be."

Other than A.J. Trapasso's punt that dinged the TV, the stadium scored very highly. Keith Bulluck, who visited the new Yankee Stadium earlier this year, tweeted that Jones had outdone George Steinbrenner.

"It's pretty magnificent, pretty impressive definitely," he said after the game.

Setting aside that fantastic development, the Titans were pretty awful with 191 net yards, 10 first downs and fewer than 20 minutes of possession. Defensively, they allowed 466 yards, 27 first downs and two fourth-down conversions.

They didn't have their starters on the field as long as Dallas did, as the Cowboys stayed on the field through the first half.

But spin as they might, it's hard to find much to like about the work of second quarterback Vince Young or Patrick Ramsey, who is third in line. Jeff Fisher said while Young won't necessarily start, he will get time with the starters in one of the final two preseason games.

Rookie running back Javon Ringer qualified as the primary bright spot.

He finished with the best rushing average in the game thanks to five carries for 33 yards. The Titans fifth-round pick out of Michigan State also had an impressive 51-yard kickoff return and worked on kick and punt coverage teams.

(Read full post)

 
  Tim Heitman/US Presswire
  All eyes were on the mammoth video board at the brand new Cowboys Stadium Friday night, especially after Titans punter A.J. Trapasso nailed it on a punt.

Posted by ESPN.com's Matt Mosley

ARLINGTON, Texas -- It's already happened! In the inaugural preseason game at Cowboys Stadium, Titans punter A.J. Trapasso boomed a punt that deflected off the bottom of an enormous video board that stretches from one 20-yard line to the other.

Titans coach Jeff Fisher immediately threw his red challenge flag onto the field as Trapasso pointed to the board. Cowboys coach Wade Phillips had a smirk on his face while players and coaches behind him chuckled.

According to the officials, the play is blown dead as soon as the ball makes contact with the video board and the down is repeated. And that's the exact same thing that will happen in a regular-season game. We've asked Jerry Jones and Wade Phillips about this very thing, but they both thought it wouldn't happen.

I'm not sure if there's a way the video board can be lifted any higher. I'm looking up there right now and it's not like there's much room. I'll ask Jerry Jones about the play after the game. Fisher's the co-chair of the competition committee, but I don't think this is something they've spent much time discussing. My guess is that Fisher instructed Trapasso to kick the ball as high as he could to see what would happen.

Trapasso hit the board three times in pre-game warmups. So far, Cowboys punter Mat McBriar hasn't come close to making contact. I'm sure he's a little embarrassed to be overshadowed by the little-known Trapasso.

AFC South blogger Paul Kuharsky is now trying to find out what would happen if one of Vince Young's passes floated into the video board.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- The Buffalo Bills opened their preseason schedule Sunday night with a 21-18 loss to the Tennessee Titans in the annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game.

Here are five Bills observations from Fawcett Stadium:

 
  Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
  Bills receiver Terrell Owens got involved early in Buffalo's Hall of Fame game loss to Tennessee.
1. If you had to guess which team opened camp one week ago and which opened two weeks ago ...

The Titans appeared to be the much sharper squad when their first- and second-teamers were on the field. The Bills opened training camp on July 25, making them the first in the NFL to break out the air horn, at least a week before 13 other clubs. The Titans got started on July 31.

Bills quarterback Trent Edwards had only one series and concluded it with an interception at the Titans' 7-yard line.

Tennessee seemed to come up with the big play when it needed one against Buffalo's top players. On the game's first drive, Titans coach Jeff Fisher called for a fake punt that rookie A.J. Trapasso executed exceptionally, hiding the ball behind his back as he swung his leg and then dashing up the left sideline for a 40-yard touchdown.

Titans quarterback Kerry Collins was 7 of 10 for 82 yards. Collins picked on second-year right cornerback Leodis McKelvin for 19 yards to convert a third-and-15 situation on an eventual touchdown drive.

"The third-and-15 was a critical down in that series," Bills coach Dick Jauron said. "We can't let people off in that. The percentages are highly in our favor, and we just gave up a first down."

Early in the second quarter, the Bills were denied on third and fourth down from the Titans' 5-yard line. The Bills needed 2 yards for the first down on each snap.

"We've got to convert that and thought we had a chance to," Jauron said.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Graham

CANTON, Ohio -- Good thing the Buffalo Bills get five of these games.

Their first exhibition didn't go so well for the starters on either side of the ball or on special teams.

At the end of the first quarter and down 14-0 to the Tennessee Titans in the Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, the Bills' starters appear done for the evening.

Bills coach Dick Jauron gave his starting offense one series. Trent Edwards, running the new no-huddle offense against an opponent for the first time, looked good until throwing an interception at the 7-yard line.

On the series, Edwards completed three of his four passes for 34 yards and scrambled 8 yards to convert a third down. Terrell Owens had 27 of those aerial yards on two receptions, both for first downs. But Titans safety Michael Griffin snuffed the drive.

Buffalo's first-team defense surrendered a touchdown on the ensuing drive. Tennessee went 73 yards on 11 plays to take a 14-0 lead. Bills cornerback Leodis McKelvin gave up a 19-yard Justin Gage reception on a third-and-15 play.

Buffalo's special teams got burned for the first touchdown. Tennessee's backup punter, rookie A.J. Trapasso, executed a brilliant hide-the-ball fake and darted 40 yards up the left sideline for a touchdown.

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