Committee discussing concussion guidelines, catch rules

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL's competition committee wants football to be a safer game.

It's going to take a little while longer to figure out how to do it effectively.

Committee members spent most of Thursday afternoon meeting in Indianapolis, site of the league's annual scouting combine, and discussed everything from player safety to what constitutes a catch. No formal proposals have been made, and none might be forthcoming until the committee's next scheduled meeting in Florida.

Clearly, though, protecting players is among the hottest topics on the league's agenda -- after collective bargaining agreement negotiations.

"Every year different tactics come into the game, and guys are taught different ways to play the game," said Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, the longtime co-chair of the committee. "When that happens, I think we have to talk about how we deal with that. Do we have a proposal? Not yet. Do I anticipate one? I sure do."

McKay wouldn't speculate on possible changes, but his comments came about 12 hours after the league said it would unveil a revised sideline protocol for concussion testing on Friday.

After the full committee broke late Wednesday, McKay returned about an hour later to meet with the coaches' subcommittee. Attendees included Pittsburgh Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, Cincinnati Bengals coach Marvin Lewis, Philadelphia Eagles coach Andy Reid, St. Louis Rams coach Steve Spagnuolo, Baltimore Ravens coach John Harbaugh and Cleveland Browns president Mike Holmgren.

Tomlin, Lewis and Spagnuolo all declined to comment on the discussions following a nearly three-hour session.

McKay said the No. 1 topic during that portion was player fines, though he heard no complaints from coaches -- even those who had players openly critical of the league's increased fines for hits to the head last season.

"They wanted a discussion and an understanding of the fine system itself and how it all operates," McKay told The Associated Press. "I've been one who individually believes that the fine system works pretty well for us. It's intended to deter conduct, and I think when you look at the number of repeat offenders we have, it works pretty well for us."

Another topic under review is what constitutes a catch.

The national debate over that rule began in September, when Detroit Lions receiver Calvin Johnson leaped for a catch and got two feet and a knee in the end zone before the football hit the ground and he let it go. It was ruled incomplete,

The play could have been a game-winner. Instead, Detroit lost 19-14.

"Quite frankly, it's something we've talked about the last couple of years and there's an inherent conflict between slow motion replay, super slow motion replay and what we ask our officials to do on the field," McKay said. "So we need to write the rule in a way as to not put our officials in a bad position."

Indianapolis Colts President Bill Polian, also a longtime committee member, cautioned against reading too much into Wednesday's discussions. But those discussions will likely set the agenda for what changes the committee wants to address before the 2011 season.

"It sounds corny, but I've always said that I don't think we should never have anything that's not on the table," McKay said.

On Thursday, head coaches and team general managers are scheduled to meet with the NFL's management council. Most believe they will get an update on how negotiations are proceeding, but four coaches declined to comment on the meeting, as did Polian and McKay.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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