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Up-tempo Colts plead for adjustments to umpire position rule

INDIANAPOLIS -- The NFL finally figured out how to slow down Colts quarterback Peyton Manning: Change the rules.

Apparently, the changes are now under further review.

One day after Manning drew two penalties for illegal snaps during a preseason game at Green Bay, Colts coach Jim Caldwell pleaded with NFL officials to re-evaluate a change that forces players to wait for the umpire to get into his new position before the ball can be put in play.

The league wasted no time in responding to all the complaints.

"The movement of the umpire to the offensive backfield will happen in the regular season," league spokesman Michael Signora said in a statement given to The Associated Press on Friday. "We continue to analyze and review the impact of the change in the preseason, and we may announce some adjustments to the mechanics of the position prior to Week 1."

Colts players and coaches believe refinements are an absolute necessity after Thursday night's debacle in Green Bay.

Over the past decade, Indianapolis has fielded one of the NFL's highest-scoring teams, partly because of its no-huddle offense. The Colts have been so good running it that receivers and running backs learned to take the ball straight to the umpire to save time, and when defenses dared to make changes, Manning often caught them in the act.

But during the offseason, the NFL's competition committee voted to reposition the umpire behind the deepest player in the offensive backfield. Previously, the umpire stood behind defensive linemen and closer to linebackers, which occasionally had him in the middle of a play.

The reason: Safety.

What the Colts objected to Thursday were the delays between spotting the ball and the umpire getting in position to start the play, which visibly frustrated the only four-time MVP in league history.

"The one (illegal snap) on me I thought was ridiculous. Down there by the goal line when you're snapping the ball to keep them from potentially getting a replay," Manning said after the game. "Also, they're unsettled. To throw a 5-yard penalty is absolutely ridiculous in my opinion. So I think that's one thing that will be re-evaluated -- at least a do-over of some sort, or a warning, but a 5-yard penalty, that's ridiculous."

Another concern is consistency.

Instead of simply making calls, things could change from week to week, based on the crews, or even play to play, based on whether the umpire is out of breath. It could even force teams to study how fast each umpire in the league gets into position, so they know when to expect when the ball is put in play.

"We certainly hope not," Caldwell said when asked about the possibility. "We hope that it's going to be one that is pretty uniform throughout, so that we don't have to make any adjustments on a weekly basis depending upon who is calling the game."

The controversy could be coming soon to a stadium near you.

Though Indianapolis relies more extensively on the up-tempo pace than others, all NFL teams eventually could find themselves not only racing against the clock but against the umpire at the end of the half or the game -- if the rules continue to be applied the way they were at Green Bay. It could cost teams scoring chances and potentially change the game, which is why Caldwell spent Friday making his case to tweak the rule.

"Let me put it this way: I do think it's being evaluated," Caldwell said. "It didn't work well for us last night on a couple of occasions, and so we hope in the evaluation process they'll find some middle ground and give us an opportunity to use our offense like we've done for a number of years."

And that might be enough to appease Manning.

"I don't think very highly of it right now," he said. "Initially, it's still a work in progress, hopefully they mean that and they're still analyzing how it's going to work. It certainly didn't seem like it took some of the things that we do and other things do into account when they made the rule. I'm not a big fan of it right now."

Copyright 2010 by The Associated Press

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