NFL says Dallas Cowboys can keep video board height as is - for now
06:39 PM CDT on Friday, August 28, 2009
By TODD ARCHER / The Dallas Morning News
IRVING – For now, the digital scoreboard inside Cowboys Stadium will stay at 90 feet above the field.
The NFL on Friday elected not to make the team raise the center-hung board despite calls for it from the Competition Committee after the $40 million screen became one of the league's hottest topics for a week.
In a memo sent to every team, Commissioner Roger Goodell said if a punt hits the board – or a guide wire, sky cam or any other object at any stadium – the down will be replayed, just as the rule stated before a punt by Tennessee's A.J. Trapasso nailed it a week ago in the first football game at the $1.15 billion stadium in Arlington.
The do-over rule will be in place for the rest of this season, including tonight's preseason game against San Francisco. However, the issue could be revisited.
"We will continue to address the particular circumstances in Dallas, giving full consideration to the competitive, safety and fan experience issues involved," Goodell said in a prepared statement. "The Cowboys have been fully cooperative as we have addressed this subject, and we will continue to work closely with the club on a longer term resolution."
The Cowboys will raise and disconnect the board for the Oct. 12 U2 concert in order to fit the rock band's stage. For the last month the team has been installing equipment that will allow the board to be lowered for future special events.
While he was not available for comment Friday, this was a win for owner and general manager Jerry Jones, who consistently said the board, which is higher than the 85-foot minimum directed by the NFL, did not need to be raised. Jones said that in a regular-season game, the height would not be a factor because punters kick toward the sidelines to help the coverage team.
The Cowboys believe Trapasso was attempting to hit the board after he and Craig Hentrich hit it in pre-game warmups. Cowboys punter Mat McBriar has said the scoreboard would not affect him.
McBriar, who has one of the strongest legs in the NFL, did not hit the board against Tennessee or in Thursday's practice at the stadium.
"It hasn't been a problem for me yet, so I'm not really concerned by it," McBriar said. "I'm sure guys who come in for the first time are going to be, No. 1, awestruck by the building, and then they'll see the screen. I don't foresee it being a problem for myself. I can't talk for other guys."
The league amended its replay rules because of the board, allowing the replay official to stop play at any point in the game if he believes the board was struck by a punt. Normally the replay official has the final say only in the last two minutes of each half. Plus, coaches will be able to use a replay challenge if they believe the board was hit.
If the down is replayed, the game clock will be reset to the time remaining when the snap occurred and all penalties will be disregarded, except personal fouls, which will be administered before the snap.
Two of the NFL's top punters – San Diego's Mike Scifres and Oakland's Shane Lechler – visit Cowboys Stadium this season, and McBriar said either could hit the board at any time.
"If you hit it every time out there, I don't think you want your cover guys running down there 10 times," McBriar said. "You're just going to have to kick around it somehow. Relatively it doesn't take a whole lot of room up width-wise. Sure it goes 60-yards [long], but it barely covers hash to hash.
"There are ways around it. If you tell me don't hit it, I won't hit it."