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C. Policy Pushes For Replay

When Carmen Policy was running the San Francisco 49ers, he was the league's staunchest proponent of instant replay to help officiating. Now that he is president of the Cleveland Browns, his position hasn't changed a bit.

"We have been in favor of instant replay for a long time, pretty much since it ended (in 1991)," Policy said. "At some point, we were in favor of almost any form of instant replay."

Policy is confident the NFL will revive replay at these meetings. Following a season filled with controversial calls - the league even admitted to some blown calls by officials - there has been a strong groundswell to reinstate it.

The league's competition committee has introduced a plan featuring coaches' challenges, although a replay official can stop play to look at a call in the final two minutes of each half.

Even those who have opposed replay in the past believe it will pass.

"I am not a replay person, but I think this is the best compromise we can come up with," said Tony Dungy, coach of the Tampa Bay Bucs, who have opposed replay in the past but probably will vote in favor this year. "There is enough momentum that people want it."

SCHEDULE MAKERS: The NFL has a tougher job than usual this year in the makeup of its schedule. Yet Val Pinchbeck, who has been involved in putting together the schedule since 1971, expects it to be done at the usual time, in April.

"We're getting there at a pretty good pace," Pinchbeck said. "Having 31 teams hasn't made it much more complicated."

Pinchbeck recognized there will be extra interest in the 1999 schedule, because some team will have a bye each week - including the opening weekend and the final weekend. While several plans were discussed, the most likely scenario will have teams with poor records from last season getting byes late in the year. The league hopes that will avoid a team making the playoffs and not playing on the final weekend, a distinct advantage.

Of course, the Atlanta Falcons went from a losing record to the Super Bowl last season.

Also likely is a schedule that gives warm-weather teams such as Arizona, Miami and Tampa early-season byes.

"The byes have added an element to it, but not an overwhelming one," Pinchbeck said.

THANKSGIVING DISCORD: One of the most contentious items on the agenda at the NFL meetings is the future scheduling of Thanksgiving Day games.

Traditionally, those games are played in Detroit and Dallas, with the Lions as host of the early game.

But a proposal presented by Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt and New Orleans Saints owner Tom Benson would have the home sites rotated each year - something the Lions and Cowboys vigorously oppose.

"This is something we've raised for 15 years," Hunt said. "The two teams that are home each Thanksgiving have a competitive advantagover teams that travel in a short week. That is a major inequity.

"Clearly Dallas and Detroit are fighting against it and trying to keep an advantage. Their coaches and players have said it's an advantage. No one should have that advantage going into the schedule."

Lions owner William Ford Jr. has expressed his displeasure with any consideration of taking the game away from Detroit. He has publicly criticized commissioner Paul Tagliabue, claiming Tagliabue at first supported leaving the Thanksgiving games where they are, then backed off.

"The key there is what the owners feel," Tagliabue said. "This is a resolution presented by Kansas City and New Orleans and I think there are other clubs that feel there should be some rotation. I know that a lot of clubs respect the tradition of Detroit, which dates back to the '30s."

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