The NFL's Competition Committee will recommend to league owners next week a significant addition to plays that are subject to instant replay review, according to Rich McKay, co-chairman of the committee and general manager of the Atlanta Falcons.
McKay said the wording of the proposal is still being worked on, but the change would involve plays on which a game official rules that a player is down by contact but the football is fumbled and recovered by the defense. Under current rules, as soon as a whistle blows signaling down by contact, the play is over and not subject to review, even if the man carrying the ball fumbles and the defense recovers.
"If the official can see the fumble coming out [in the replay review] and there is no break in the action, he can award the recovering team the ball," McKay said in a conference call yesterday. "No advancement of the ball will be allowed. The team takes over where the ball is fumbled."
The committee, which is meeting in Hawaii in advance of next week's winter meetings, also has been studying a variety of safety issues, including below-the-knee blocking and the so-called horse collar tackle in which a defender trailing a ball carrier puts his arm around the offensive player's neck and drags him down from behind.
McKay said broader language is likely to be written into unnecessary roughness rules to include such dangerous tackling and blocking tactics "that will get certain hits out of the game." That language, he said, would give the league more latitude in assessing fines or penalties.
Six-time Pro Bowl left tackle Orlando Pace signed a seven-year, $52.8 million contract extension with the St. Louis Rams. The deal includes a $15 million signing bonus. The signing came a day after another franchise player, Cincinnati Bengals tailback Rudi Johnson, signed a five-year, $26 million contract that includes about $12 million in bonus money. . . .
Indianapolis Colts tailback Edgerrin James signed his one-year, $8.081 million franchise-player contract with the Colts. The Colts still could trade him. . . . Free agent quarterback Brad Johnson agreed to a four-year, $6 million contract with the Minnesota Vikings that includes a $1.2 million signing bonus.
-- Leonard Shapiro
and Mark Maske