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Pro Football | PLAYOFF NOTES

Positioning of Officials to Change Immediately

January 09, 2003|From Times Wire Services

The NFL implemented several officiating changes Wednesday, including the positioning of officials on field-goal attempts to avoid future foul-ups such as the one at the end of the New York Giant-San Francisco 49er playoff game.

Under the new policy, initiated by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the seven field officials will be realigned so they can better see what happens in the event of a fake or botched field-goal attempt, such as the one at the end of Sunday's game, won by the 49ers, 39-38.

The new policy will begin with this weekend's four playoff games.

In addition, the policy calls for the field officials to confer on controversial game-deciding calls at the end of games instead of just the referee and the other officials who made the call.

However, the officials involved in Sunday's botched call are unlikely to be disciplined beyond bad grades that will keep them from working the Super Bowl this season.

The league said Monday that officials should have called pass interference on the final play of Sunday's game, when the Giants' botched 41-yard field-goal attempt turned into a desperation pass. The pass interference penalty would have given New York another field-goal attempt.

Despite the officiating changes, the NFL won't allow off-field officials to oversee some questionable rulings during games.

"That's not permitted under our rules," NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said. "The officials on the field make all the calls. They're in charge."

The three networks that televise NFL games said they would welcome a league official in the broadcast booth to clarify rulings on the field.

"We've been approached about doing it, but we passed on the idea," Aiello said. "We don't think that is necessary."

In addition to the missed call on the field in the Giant-49er game, Fox announcers at the game gave viewers incorrect information about NFL rules after the play. The News Corp. network said it asked the league several weeks ago to allow NFL Director of Officiating Mike Pereira to wear a microphone during games.

The NFL turned down the request.

Although network producers and announcers can call an NFL "officiating observer" during games, the Fox announcers didn't have time to do that during the hectic ending of Sunday's game, the network said.

Golf is the only sport that provides an on-air official to TV networks.

A U.S. Golf Assn. official has been part of U.S. Open broadcasts since the 1970s, a policy that USGA Executive Director David Fay calls "preventive officiating."

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