Apparently, Star Wars and the National Football League don't mix. Today, helmet radios, the invention of the 1980s, were thrown for a loss.
Only about half the teams in the NFL indicated their support for the radios, the league competition committee's prize recommendation at the annual winter meetings. A three-fourths vote (21 of the 28 teams) was necessary to pass the experiment for use in the 1985 preseason. Coach Joe Gibbs said the Washington Redskins were against the proposal.
Now, it has been sent back to the drawing board.
Most teams liked the intent of the small transmitters and receivers, which is to allow receivers to hear the quarterback's signals and audibles in noisy stadiums. But they didn't like the potential for misuse of the tiny radios.
"They don't want it to explode," said the competition committee's chairman, Tex Schramm of the Dallas Cowboys. "They don't want the safety yelling to the cornerback or the quarterback yelling to the tight end to hook while the play is going on.
"They want assurances that this will just be held at one thing. If it could be totally limited to audibles and snaps, then they would like it."
With research, the committee is convinced the radio can be made to automatically turn off after each snap. If that happens quickly, Schramm said, the radio still may debut experimentally this preseason.
The owners, coaches and team officials meeting at the Arizona Biltmore Hotel this week passed eight minor rule changes today, did not pass six, including the helmet radios, and postponed votes on rules to quicken games and instant replays until Thursday.
The most important rule changes included clarification of the pass interference rule to allow exceptions for incidental contact made as players go for the ball; specified that a player must wave his arm, not just raise it, for a fair-catch signal; stated that a play ends automatically when a quarterback kneels or simulates kneeling during the last two minutes of a half; and clarified that there is no penalty for running into the kicker when a defender is blocked into him.
Two interesting proposals did not pass. Tees will not be allowed for field goals and extra points, and the "taunting" or demonstration rule will not be liberalized.
In other matters, Phoenix again is a target for an NFL owner with itchy feet.
St. Louis Cardinals owner William Bidwill said today that he is "seriously looking at the possibility" of moving his team for the 1985 season, but downplayed the significance of a quote from the team legal counsel that there was "a 50-50 chance" the Cardinals would come to Phoenix.
"I wouldn't have put those exact numbers on it," Bidwill told a group of reporters during a break in the meetings. "I think we're listening and evaluating our options and we'll go from there."
What they will do was a topic of great interest in Phoenix, a city whose hopes already have been raised -- and dashed -- once during this offseason with the proposed move of the Philadelphia Eagles.
And, a year ago, Robert Irsay toyed with the prospect of moving the Baltimore Colts to Phoenix before he chose Indianapolis instead.
Thomas Guilfoil, the Cardinals' legal counsel, told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that a presentation made by the Phoenix Metropolitan Sports Foundation this week made a great impression on the Cardinals, who play in the second-smallest stadium in the NFL, 51,000-seat Busch Memorial Stadium.
Although Bidwill said he won't make any decisions this week, Ed Lynch, who heads the Phoenix sports group, said today that he believes the foundation and the Cardinals are "very close.".
At least one team is happy and staying put.
After meeting with San Francisco 49ers owner Edward DeBartolo Jr. here today, Mayor Diane Feinstein said the Super Bowl champions will stay in Candlestick Park.
The city and the team will share $20 million to $30 million in improvements for Candlestick Park and will increase the number of luxury skyboxes in the stadium from 63 to 118.