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Instant Replay Is Extended

Times Staff Writer

NFL owners voted overwhelmingly Tuesday to keep instant replay, for at least another five seasons.

The oft-debated officiating tool passed by a 29-3 vote, with only Kansas City, Indianapolis and Cincinnati opposing it. The owners discussed making it a permanent rule but chose not to vote on that, instead approving a five-year extension of the status quo with a minor wrinkle: If a coach is successful on his two allotted challenges, he will get a third.

The Carolina Panthers are the only team that had two successful challenges in a game last season, on Nov. 2 at Houston.

Ralph Wilson, owner of the Buffalo Bills, was once an opponent of the instant-replay system, largely because it was too slow, but voted in favor of it in its current form. He said it seemed to work well, although he and other owners weren’t ready to make it a permanent part of the rule book.

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“There are too many changes in technology,” he said. “People thought there are so many changes that in five years there might be something better that comes along.”

Indianapolis’ Tony Dungy was the only coach who did not challenge a call last season.

Commissioner Paul Tagliabue said that by approving a five-year extension, instead of adopting instant replay for good, the owners had given the competition committee and the league even more incentive to continually improve the system.

“There’s some value to keeping the pressure on and making it better and better,” Tagliabue said.

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Replay came up for a vote when its three-year stint expired after the 2003 season. Before that, it had been approved year to year.

“I think it’s time for voting on it permanently,” Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee, said a day before the vote. “This rule has been tried and tested in our minds. I think we should be a league of permanent rules.”

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Owners approved a 15-year extension of the NFL trust by a 26-3 vote with three abstentions. Miami, Washington and Dallas voted against the so-called master agreement, and Oakland, Philadelphia and Tampa Bay abstained.

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Tagliabue agreed to appoint a nine-member committee to study all aspects of revenue sharing.

“It’s complicated,” said Jeffrey Lurie, owner of the Eagles. “Because you’re not only talking about revenue numbers but teams putting in 200, 300, 400 million [dollars] into new stadiums.... It’s complicated mathematics.”

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers put the finishing touches on a one-year deal with troubled defensive tackle Darrell Russell, the former USC standout who has a history of drug suspensions and legal troubles.

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Russell, selected No. 2 overall by the Raiders in 1997, signed a deal that will pay him a league-minimum $685,000 next season. He was suspended for four games in 2001 and the entire 2002 season for violating the NFL’s drug policy.

Stemming from an incident on Jan. 31, 2002, Russell was charged as an accomplice in the drugging of a woman with the date-rape drug GHB and videotaping of two of his friends allegedly sexually assaulting her. On Sept. 12, 2002, 25 counts of felony rape and sexual assault against the three were dropped for a lack of evidence.

“He’s got a lot to prove,” Tampa Bay Coach Jon Gruden said. “He’s got to get it right. Hopefully, this is an opportunity for him to do it. The stage is set for him to be successful. If he can do that, we’re going to look for him to help us. If he can’t do that, then it’s not going to be a very long-lasting relationship.”


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