Rules roundup: DBs' title belt safe


Reggie Nelson

The championship belt belonging to Bengals safety Reggie Nelson appears safe.

Although, you really couldn't get an answer after NFL commissioner Roger Goodell made this sweeping statement Wednesday at the NFL meetings when asked if any non-contract bonuses are legal.

"We are not going to allow cash payments to go between players, including club involvement or no club involvement," Goodell said. "That is impermissible. Our rules are quite clear. We will be sending them so they can see. We are going to take that element out of the game."

But he said he had to check the rules when asked if a quarterback could give his linemen a Rolex watch at the end of the season.

Thanks to Bountygate, it looks like the days of the Kitties are over. When you'd throw in a couple of bucks or a couple hundred if you were late or dropped a pass or any other transgression deemed finable by a teammate.

But now, that is going to get you fined. Even though the Bengals defensive backs chipped in to get a championship belt to reward the team's interception leader, that doesn't appear to be a violation.

"There's nothing wrong with that. It's got to have a certain value and ... that's not it," said head coach Marvin Lewis, who admitted some things are going to be tough to police. "These are very competitive guys who spend their day competing on a lot of different things as we know. On the most miniscule of things."

SUDDEN DEATH DIES: Bengals president Mike Brown didn't like the rule, but he voted with the 30-2 majority Wednesday to adopt the postseason overtime rule for the regular season. Sudden death is now dead. Except if a team scores a TD on the opening possession, a la Tim Tebow in Denver's Wild Card win over Pittsburgh.

If a team only kicks a field goal on that first possession, the other team has a chance to match it and keep playing until the next score wins.

"By that point I had been talked out. I would have rather that we had stayed with the old rule but I am pleased with the rule that is the same throughout the season that isn't different for the playoffs," Brown said. "I thought that was mistaken. Yet when you think about how it got there it was a way to test out the rule because it would not have passed at that time. Most of the people thought it was overdoing it. So we've had it for playoff games for a few years now. It was used once in the playoff game and it didn't matter. It is always good in my mind to keep things simpler and one rule is simpler for two rules and in that sense I was for it."

Brown remembers a sudden death when no one died. Nov. 16, 2008 at Paul Brown Stadium when the Bengals and Eagles finished five quarters tied at 13 and Donovan McNabb thought they were supposed to keep playing.

"I think when they put this rule in there had been an aberrational year and this year was meant to set that right," Brown said. "I like our rule. It's easily understood. As far as I'm concerned both teams did get a fair shot. You have all the game to win it. And you had a 50-50 bet on the coin toss. I don't think long overtimes are good. I remember playing Philadelphia (when) we went the whole way. It exhausts your team. It really does. They feel it for the next week or so."

REPLAY REPLAY: Brown remains the most ardent foe of instant replay, but it was unclear if he also went with the 31-1 majority on making most turnovers automatically reviewed. Like all scoring plays.

"There are pluses and minuses on replay. I'm not convinced there is total justice in the NFL any more than there is in the real world," Brown said. "Part of life is sometimes you get a little break and sometimes you get a little bit of the hit. I can live with that. I really can. Then once you put this replay into the mix, it stops the game. You have these pauses. It delays the game. It extends the time it takes to play the game. In my mind I'm willing to live with the call. Go on. Don't pause as long as we do to sort all this out."

NOT SO FINE: Brown's most vocal moment in the meetings appeared to come Tuesday and it wasn't over a vote. He saw an opportunity to object to the league handing out so many fines to not only individuals, but also to teams. The Bengals have apparently not been fined, but they can be if their players or employees do something worthy on or off the field. Such as repeated offenses.

"I know everyone thinks I am ultra-conservative. But sometimes you may be shocked to find out I'm probably more liberal than the liberals," Brown said. "I don't believe in too much policing. Less of that is better in my mind. When there are fines for things you don't even do but (someone) might do that works with you, I find that a step too far and I take exception to it.

"I have never agreed with the philosophy. I think we have more of that than we need so I stood up and said something. Too much governing. Ron Paul and I see eye to eye."

MORE RULES: Bengals fans were incensed when Andy Dalton was the exception to the horse-collar tackle rule against the Texans last year. That's because quarterbacks in the pocket are the exception. But a proposal modifying the horse-collar tackle rule to remove the exception for quarterbacks in the pocket was surprisingly voted down in this player safety era.

"In this instance, the rule was developed for an open field tackle where we felt like a defender had a chance with an alternative to do something else," said Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee. "And we felt like the injury risk was going to occur because the defender was able to actually use the runner's momentum against himself and swing and fall on the back of his legs.

"We never thought that necessarily applied in the pocket. We watched the tape and didn't feel that was a change that was also fair to the defender. The defender in the pocket is fighting off an offensive player, grabbing and just trying to do everything he can. We just didn't see the injury risk and that is why we didn't support it. It is not a place we like to be because we are always going to promote player safety; we just didn't think this had an impact on player safety."

Lewis, a member of the competition committee, agreed with not moving the decision-maker of instant replay from the referee to the replay assistant upstairs.

"The referee is the guy on the field in charge of his crew and you get a chance to talk to him," Lewis said. "You don't want big brother."

A rash of bylaw proposals tweaking the roster were tabled until the May meeting, such as expanding the preseason roster to 90 and designating an injured reserve player eligible to return Week 8. Don't look for Brown to vote for the 90-man roster in light of the new CBA cutting down OTAs and practice time in training camp.

"I've not been persuaded we need more players," Brown said. "We're at the point with the new CBA where it has restricted the length of time we practice. That means we're going to be working less on the field. Not more. Why should we need more players to work less I ask."

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