Rooney to NFL: If it's not broken, don't try to fix it

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NEW ORLEANS -- While NFL owners consider rules proposals for a 2011 season that may not take place, Art Rooney II would like them to apply some brakes.

The Steelers president thinks the league's competition committee might be trying to fix something that's not broken. He's dead set against expanding the use of instant replay, and he repeated a warning he first issued last fall: Don't go overboard with the new safety proposals.

"I don't like the replay rule," Rooney said.

The league competition committee has recommended changes that would allow review by officials of every scoring play without a coach using one of his challenges. The rules were presented Monday to the owners, who will vote on them today.

Rooney's concern is twofold, that fans would not know immediately if a team has scored and that officials might be gun-shy to make a call knowing it would automatically be reviewed anyway.

"The fans are going to sit there and wait and, OK, is that a touchdown or not? Are they going to review it or not?" Rooney said.

"And the other thing is, the first time we did replay it was basically sort of the eye in the sky thing where any play could be reviewed. That's how it was. The negative I think from that -- and I think one of the reasons we kind of went to the system we have with the coach's challenge -- was the effect it had on the officials. They basically started to be hesitant to make a call because they knew everything they were going to do was going to be reviewed. I think that could be one of the effects of this, guys not wanting to make a call because they know it's going upstairs no matter what they call.

"I have to say I was surprised they even made this proposal because I think our replay rule is working fine. I wouldn't make any changes."

Rooney spoke out in the fall when the NFL began hitting players more heavily with fines, especially Steelers linebacker James Harrison. He cautioned that they flirted with changing a game that is inherently physical -- and popular.

He repeated those concerns Monday after the competition committee recommended more stringent rules on hits, and the NFL's intent to punish those hits more severely, including suspensions.

"We're anxious to get into the debate a little bit and hear what the committee's rationale is, but I would say we have some concerns about some of the proposals.

"No. 1, look, everybody's for safety and [we will] try to do what we can to make the game as safe as we possibly can. The other side of that is you have to have a game where it's possible to officiate the game consistently, game in and game out. I've said this before, I really think we're asking a lot of our defensive players in terms of the adjustments they have to make. Now I think we're going to be asking a lot of our officials to really officiate this kind of stuff. The more judgment calls you put on them the more difficult it becomes.

"Overall, I think they do a good job but it's going to become a tougher game to officiate. I think we have to be realistic about how much this is doable. There has to be some balance to it."

Rooney touched on a number of other topics during a lunchtime interview Monday:

• On keeping the same routine of requesting deposits of season-ticket holders now despite the lockout of the players, which could threaten the season: "We just decided we were going to go business as usual with tickets. The only thing we did different is we said with our renewal that if a game gets canceled we'll give you a refund. Everything is the same as we've always done it. We have to prepare as if the season's going to happen. There's no other way to do it."

• He does not believe recent comments by Ryan Clark, the Steelers union player rep, were aimed at the three generations of Rooneys that have run the team. The safety said recently on 93.7 The Fan that his daddy didn't hand down his job to him. "I try not to take some of this stuff personally," Rooney said. "I understand it's frustrating and people are going to say what's on their mind at times. I've heard that comment from more than one player so I think it's one of those things."

• An NFL official, speaking on background, said there is nothing illegal about the league hiring replacement players to compete in 2011 during a lockout. The NFL played with replacements for three games during a strike in 1987. Rooney, though, said using replacement players "really hasn't been anything that's been considered."

• Last week, Rooney said he did not anticipate layoffs, furloughs or salary cuts for Steelers employees during the lockout. Monday, he said there's no concern about the team's financial situation during a lockout. "We'll be fine. We've had a long time to prepare for it and I think we're prepared to weather whatever the storm is."



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