NFL Spring Meetings Notebook: Radio helmets for defense gets OK, too
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PALM BEACH, Fla. -- It's a rare day when the NFL passes a new rule to help the defense. Yesterday was such a day.
By a 25-7 vote, owners approved a radio receiver in the helmet of a defensive player for the 2008 season.
The proposal, rejected in two previous years, will allow coaches to call defensive signals without substituting a player or using hand signals from the sideline.
It was the use of those hand signals that the New England Patriots' staff was caught stealing by videotape last season, and that led to the so-called Spygate case that continues to gather attention. It also might have led to allowing the defense to have such communication now.
On offense, the quarterback has had a radio receiver in his helmet for coaches to call plays since 1994.
While only one player at a time on the field on defense will be permitted to have a radio receiver, two players will be allowed to have such a helmet. One player can replace the other if he leaves the field or is injured.
Reception in the helmet will end, as it does in the quarterback's, when the play clock hits 15 seconds.
The seven teams that voted against the proposal, two short of defeating it, all have offensive coaches as their head coach.
Steelers coach Mike Tomlin favored the new rule. The helmet likely will be worn by a linebacker or safety who is on the field for all three downs, such as James Farrior or Troy Polamalu.
"You determine who the helmeted guy is and you're not making very smart decisions if your primary guy is substituted for in sub packages," Tomlin said. "You're looking for a three-down player, a guy that plays in virtually everything that you do and then those adjustments [using the second radio] and thought patterns are only done during times of injuries."
Mike Pereira, the NFL's head of officiating, admitted yesterday that his crew working the Steelers-Jaguars playoff game erred in not calling a holding penalty against Jacksonville on a crucial play that allowed the Jaguars to kick the winning field goal.
Quarterback David Garrard scrambled on fourth-and-2 from the Steelers 43 and made the first down. Three plays later, Josh Scobee kicked a field goal, giving the Jaguars a 31-29 victory. Several Steelers players complained there was blatant holding on Garrard's run. Nearly three months later, Pereira agreed with them.
Tomlin declined to comment on Pereira's admission.
Willie Colon not only beat out Max Starks for the starting right tackle job for the Steelers last season, but he also beat out everyone in the NFL to earn top bonus money in the league's performance-based pay system.
The NFL announced yesterday that Colon earned an additional $309,534, the highest bonus awarded under the system, which distributed about $100 million to lower-salaried players who gain the extra pay through playing time during the past season.
Safety Anthony Smith also picked up a hefty bonus for his play in his second season. He earned an extra $227,721, which ranked 24th among those issued the extra pay for last season.
Colon started all 16 games plus one playoff game last season. The bonus from the NFL nearly doubled his 2007 salary of $360,000.
Longhairs prevail, for now
The NFL tabled a proposal to disallow players to wear their hair long enough outside their helmet that it obscures their names on the back of their shirts.
With Polamalu among the best and most popular players to wear his hair like that, the Steelers were not in favor of it.
Polamalu discussed the proposal with his coach before Tomlin left for these meetings.
Tomlin is against a proposal to reseed playoff teams based on record and not give preference to those who win the four division titles in each conference.
The AFC North is shaping up to be a balanced division that could produce a winner with a 9-7 record or even 8-8.
The proposal is expected to be acted upon today.
First Published April 2, 2008 12:00 am