Sunday, March 26, 2000

Instant replay will get another pass

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        PALM BEACH, Fla. — The NFL owners convene Monday morning here at the Breakers Resort, but Mike Brown of the Bengals might as well be staying at the Easy Eight over in West Palm when it comes to the top item on the annual league meeting's agenda: Instant replay.

        Rich McKay, the Buccaneers general manager who is also co-chairman of the NFL competition committee, expects the owners to pass the same system that was used this past season for another one-year run.

        Brown, the only member of the seven-man committee who voted against recommending replay earlier this month, indicated he'll vote against it again at Wednesday's meeting of the full ownership. The Bengals, Cardinals and Jets were the only teams to vote against last year and they look to be headed that way again. They need five more teams to join them to sink replay.

        Brown says there were only about a handful of plays that were reviewed last season and had impact on a game. He just doesn't feel that's a big enough deal to implement the system.

        “We keep telling ourselves that it works, but what's it really doing?” Brown asked. “We're delaying the game, stopping the flow, tinkering with the game for those few plays.”

        Other than Brown's Last Stand, the meetings look to be a snore at first blush because instant replay is the only significant item to be voted upon. But there will be discussions on such hot-button issues as the league's anti-violence policy and realignment.

        A footnote to Bengals' history comes Monday morning when the league formally approves the sale of Art Modell's shares in the Baltimore Ravens. It was Modell who fired Paul Brown as Cleveland coach at the end of the 1962 season despite Brown's record of 115-49-2. Five years later, Brown founded the Bengals.

        There could be revisions of the anti-violence policy adopted at the May meeting, and realignment for the 2002 season probably won't be adopted until next year.

        But this week, NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue leads a discussion of the head coaches about violence, as well as a roundtable looking at the various scheduling formats for the new four-team, eight-division lineup when Houston becomes the 32nd team for the 2002 season.

        The Bengals experienced Tagliabue's toughened stance on violence earlier this month when starting left guard Matt O'Dwyer was suspended for the first two games of the season for pleading guilty to disorderly conduct and third-degree assault after last July's bar brawl on Long Island.

        Titans cornerback Denard Walker was also suspended for two games after he pleaded guilty to assaulting the mother of his son. The NFL Players Association expects O'Dwyer to appeal. While the merits of handing out the same punishment to O'Dwyer and Walker could be debated, no one is questioning Tagliabue's actions in the wake of the murder charges against Ravens linebacker Ray Lewis and former Carolina receiver Rae Carruth.

        “The answer is the league frowns on violence of all kinds,” Brown said. “I do agree there are more problems now, not that it's just being reported more. I think the league has to address it. Instead of it just being passed over or even a fine levied, now you will see suspensions and that sends a clear message that this is not acceptable.”

        Brown forsees a day when psychological profiles are a staple league-wide in an effort to identify at-risk players and believes the NFL will adopt more out-reach programs for a problem that has him and others baffled.

        “Do we have the ability as a league to correct behavior problems that are the outgrowth of young people's lifetime experiences? I'm not sure we do,” Brown said. “We can try through a stronger discipline and we have been trying through counseling programs. But you tell me, how do you identify the next Rae Carruth or Ray Lewis?”

        Tagliabue begins trying in a session with the coaches this week, led by Seattle's Mike Holmgren, Tampa Bay's Tony Dungy and Baltimore's Brian Billick.

        Realignment may not be as important, but it's as difficult. A plan to keep December open for possible TV matchups has been junked, and good luck trying to get the owners to agree on the makeup of the new divisions.

        “You won't get two people to agree because everyone has their plan that's best for them,” Brown said. “I don't see how you can keep us out of a division with Cleveland and Pittsburgh because they've been our rivals for so long. Nashville could be that for us and is as close as Pittsburgh, but what do Pittsburgh and Cleveland think of that? They may want Buffalo. But Buffalo has had rivalries with the Patriots and (Jets), so what do they think of that? It goes on and on.”


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