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NFL might tweak offensive holding, false start rules

NEW YORK -- The NFL is satisfied with its officiating but
concerned that high-profile errors in the playoffs and Super Bowl
left a bad impression.

So beginning next week at league meetings in Orlando, Fla., it
will tweak a few rules, dealing mostly with player safety,
offensive holding and false starts.

"Because of the magnitude of the games, there's an indictment
of the system," Atlanta general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of
the league's competition committee, said Wednesday during a
conference call.

The main topic will be the first steps in choosing a successor
to Paul Tagliabue. The commissioner will appoint a committee Monday
to begin the process.

McKay, a leading candidate, dodged several questions on that
subject. Instead, he spent most of his time discussing officiating,
as did his committee during meetings the past month in Indianapolis
and Naples, Fla.

In the 256 games during the past regular season, there were 850
false-start calls. To cut that number, the committee is ready to
recommend that minor flinches by wide receivers be ignored if they
have no effect on the play.

The committee also is considering recommending to officials that
they make sure there was holding on a play before throwing a flag.

"We want to make sure they actually see the foul," McKay said.

One such play occurred in the Super Bowl. Seattle right tackle
Sean Locklear was called for holding on a pass completion early in
the fourth quarter that would have put the Seahawks at the
Pittsburgh 1-yard line, poised to go in for the tying touchdown.
After the penalty, Seattle quarterback Matt Hasselbeck threw an
interception and the Steelers eventually scored to take a 14-point
lead.

The committee also wants to change the rule on hits by defenders
below the knee on quarterbacks. McKay said defensive players will
be told they must make an effort to avoid hitting QBs in the legs
to avoid serious injuries, like the hit on Cincinnati's Carson
Palmer against the Steelers in the playoffs.

Another recommendation expands the rule put in place last year
against "horse collar" tackles. That violation mandated flags
only when a defensive player coming from behind got his hands
inside the shoulder pads of a player with the ball. If it is
expanded, it would extend that to tackles inside the shirt.

The committee also is considering an annual proposal from the
Kansas City Chiefs to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams. He
said there was more interest in it this year, although he stopped
short of saying the committee would recommend it.

In addition to McKay, the committee includes coach Jeff Fisher
of Tennessee, the co-chairman; general managers Ozzie Newsome of
Baltimore; Bill Polian of Indianapolis; and executives John Mara of
the New York Giants and Mark Richardson of Carolina. Coach Marvin
Lewis of Cincinnati is a nonvoting member.