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SAM FARMER/ON THE NFL

Dallas Cowboys' video board at new stadium is in punters' line of fire

In the debut of the new stadium, an exhibition game punt hits the underside of the huge screen and the ball is ruled dead. Jerry Jones doesn't see a problem. Titans Coach Jeff Fisher begs to differ.

August 23, 2009|SAM FARMER

The Dallas Cowboys were hoping to raise the roof Friday when they unveiled their new stadium.

Turns out, they might have to raise the video board, which is in the line of fire for punts. Or the league could be forced to examine its rules.

"It's something we're going to have to look at in the next week," Mike Pereira, the NFL's director of officiating, told The Times on Saturday. "We need to see if there's anything further we can do to make sure there's equity involved if it happens again."

The problem: In the third quarter of Friday night's exhibition game against Tennessee -- the first football game in Dallas' $1.2-billion palace -- a punt by the Titans' A.J. Trapasso struck the underside of the gigantic video screen, hanging 90 feet above the field and stretching from one 20-yard line to the other.

The ball bounced straight down and was ruled dead, meaning the down had to be replayed. And the plunking wasn't surprising, seeing as second-stringer Trapasso hit the video board at least three times during warmups, and starter Craig Hentrich nailed it a dozen more.

Afterward, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he does not plan to move the board higher from the stadium floor (although reportedly it is being temporarily raised by 25 feet in October to accommodate the stage for a U2 concert).

"That's not the point," Jones told the Dallas Morning News after the game. "How high is high if somebody just wants to sit there and kick the ball straight up?"

But Titans Coach Jeff Fisher, co-chairman of the competition committee, said he considers it a problem, one complicated by the fact coaches will have to keep their red challenge flags at the ready because officials are watching for illegal blocks and not the arc of the ball.

"It's an issue, yeah," Fisher told reporters. "I'm sure the Cowboys or the league will tell you, I shouldn't have to throw the flag out there because [officials] didn't see the ball hit the scoreboard. Now, it's not necessarily their responsibility. Once a fair catch signal is given, then there are no eyes on the ball anymore. So they don't see it. So something has to get worked out. It can become a problem."

Pereira said it's entirely possible that a team trying to protect a lead could run time off the clock by intentionally punting the ball into the video board and getting a do-over. He said there is no rule for putting time back on the clock in that situation.

"We haven't talked at all about time being put on the clock," he said. "The only thing we've talked about really is the do-over of the play. We've never talked about resetting the clock back to where it was. That's obviously something we're going to have to talk about. And that may be what we arrive at.

"I would say that it's a big enough issue that we're going to have to address it with the competition committee here probably sometime this week to figure out what direction we want to go."

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Cold press

To what degrees will reporters go to get a story?

In the case of Jim Wyatt, about 48 degrees.

Wyatt, Titans beat writer for the Tennessean in Nashville, had heard so much over the years about players treating their bumps and bruises in the cold tub, he decided to try it himself. He lasted 20 agonizing minutes. Impressive.

I asked him if he felt like Leonardo DiCaprio at the end of "Titanic."

"I did," he said. "But I didn't have Kate Winslet there with me. All I had was a photographer who was getting enjoyment out of me being so cold."

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Favre and friends

The Vikings have to be very pleased with the way their quarterback looked Friday against Kansas City -- not Brett Favre, but Tarvaris Jackson.

Whereas Favre had a nice tinge of rust to go with his purple and white, completing one of four passes for four yards, Jackson completed 12 of 15 for 202 yards with two touchdowns.

That makes it interesting for Minnesota, which is likely to keep third-stringer John David Booty, then decide between Jackson and Sage Rosenfels as backup. Jackson has a year left on his deal, whereas Rosenfels, acquired this off-season from Houston, has a three-year deal and is nursing a tweaked ankle.

Prediction: Rosenfels stays, and Jackson goes -- but with added trade value after the way he looked against the Chiefs.

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Deals, distractions

Very interesting decision by the NFL and NBC last week to extend their "Sunday Night Football" deal by two years, through 2013. In May, the league agreed to a similar two-year extensions with CBS and Fox, and a four-year extension with DirecTV.

In the past, the league has played the networks off each other to drive up the prices for its content. Why extend the deals now? For one, the NFL doesn't want the distraction of working out new TV contracts while trying to reach a new collective bargaining agreement with the players.

The NFL doesn't comment on terms, but here's a big question: Does the league still get that TV money, or a percentage of it, if there's a work stoppage?

If so, these lucrative extensions could also serve as insurance if there's a strike or lockout.

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Tweet of the week

Writer Steve Rushin: "If forced to watch a purple dinosaur, do you choose Barney or Favre?"

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sam.farmer@latimes.com

twitter.com/LATimesfarmer

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