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NFL Implements New Rules, Insists The Game Won't Change


The NFL recently put together a list of rule changes for the 2004 season to boost offensive production and scoring, as well as cut down on the excessive celebrating.

A set of officials are scheduled to meet with all NFL teams in the preseason to go over some of the rule changes.

On Thursday, referee Jeff Triplette and his crew consisting of field judge Duke Carroll, line judge Jeff Seeman, and side judge Mike Weatherford were in Green Bay to observe the Packers' practice. Afterward, the crew met with the media and also planned to have meetings with the players regarding the rules.

Triplette admitted that people think the rules may alter the game.

"People wonder if it's going to change the game," Triplette said. "We don't really think so. We want to enforce the rules. The players are great, they will adapt.

"It happened in 1994 when the passing yardage was down and they put the illegal contact in. As they got more physical, the hands started restricting a little more and the competition committee said that it was an unfair advantage. You didn't see a lot more fouls, you just saw a lot more offense. The players adapted in '94 and we have every reason to believe they will adapt to the situation this year."

While the new rules are going to be enforced, Triplette downplayed how it will alter the officiating.

"The defensive holding and pulling jerseys is going to be a foul," Triplette said. "However, it won't necessarily change what defensive pass interference is. The rule is that the contact has to affect the receiver in order to be defensive pass interference."

Although the offensive player can be called for pass interference, these rules obviously are in place to aid the offense, which is fine with Packers wide receiver Donald Driver.

"No more grabbing, no more pulling," Driver said. "It helps us out a lot. People want to see points on the board, that's when people get excited. That's the rule where the offense has an advantage. They want us to score touchdowns so they are going to make every call count."

GM/Head Coach Mike Sherman doesn't think the rules are going to cause any problems with his squad.

"Primarily in the physical area, in the first five yards, pretty much anything is allowed except reaching outside the framework of the body for a grab," Sherman said. "Down field those collisions are going to be called and that will definitely occur. These guys understand that and we have been coaching that since mini-camps, so I feel we will be OK."

The other point of emphasis the officials discussed Thursday was celebration. According to Triplette, in the past the league would handle the penalties for a player "doing a machine gun or the throat slashing."

"It's not the two guys who slap hands after a score that's a problem," he said. "Spontaneous acts are fine, it's the choreographed celebrations that are not."

Another interesting part of the rule change occurs when any kind of hard foreign substance -- such as cell phones or pens -- surfaces. Not only will a penalty be called, but it could result in disqualification, whether it was on the players body or if they pick it up outside the playing field. Cardboard paper and pom-poms are not hard, cell phones and markers are, and could lead to an ejection.

Triplette said the players are too talented to let the rule change affect the game.

"I don't ever underestimate the players," Triplette said. "They were already talking to us about it in the practice and we have only been here one day. The players will adapt, they are great athletes. They know they aren't going to play if they have lots of penalties called on them."

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