The NFL implemented several officiating changes yesterday, including the positioning of officials on field goal attempts to avoid future foul-ups like the one at the end of the New York Giants-San Francisco 49ers playoff game.
Under the new policy, initiated by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, the seven field officials will be realigned so they can better see what happens in the event of a fake field goal or a botched attempt, like the one at the end of last Sunday's game, won by the 49ers, 39-38.
The new policy will begin with this weekend's four playoff games.
In addition, the new policy calls for the field officials to confer on controversial game-deciding calls at the end of games instead of just the referee and the other officials who made the call.
However, the officials involved in Sunday's botched call are unlikely to be disciplined beyond bad grades that will keep them from working the Super Bowl this season, according to a source within the league who requested anonymity.
In the Giants-49ers game, a bad snap on a potential game-winning 41-yard field goal by New York on the game's final play was fumbled and then picked up by holder Matt Allen. He tried a desperation pass on which there was clearly interference against Rich Seubert, a guard wearing No. 69 who had lined up as an eligible receiver.
As teams are required, the Giants had told the officials before the game that Seubert would be eligible on field goal attempts and extra points.
In a rare public admission of culpability, the league announced Monday that officials correctly threw a flag for an ineligible receiver downfield against Tam Hopkins, a New York offensive lineman who ran beyond the line of scrimmage. But the league also said a flag should have been thrown against San Francisco's Chike Okeafor for pass interference against Seubert, who came close to catching the ball that Allen heaved downfield.
The offsetting penalties would have allowed the Giants to try the kick again.
As for discipline, Tagliabue said, "We do not make overall personnel decisions until the season is completed, not during the season."
NFL rules actually have provisions for replaying parts of games or -- as in this case -- one play. However, that has never been done and the league said in this case that it is obviously impractical.
Tampa Bay linebacker Derrick Brooks is the crown jewel of the NFL's best defense and easily topped Miami end Jason Taylor for the Associated Press NFL defensive player of the year award.
The Buccaneers' star has been one of pro football's best linebackers almost since he broke into the league in 1995. But teammates Warren Sapp and John Lynch often drew more attention. Sapp won the award in 1999.
There was no ignoring Brooks this year. He led his team in tackles (170) for the fifth consecutive year and led the NFL with three interception returns for touchdowns. His four touchdowns on turnovers tied for second most in a single season in league history.