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Copyright 2014 The Palm Beach Newspapers, Inc.
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Palm Beach Post (Florida)
By Hal Habib Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

It could become a bit easier to make the playoffs and a bit harder to make extra points in the NFL, but one virtual certainty is it will be significantly tougher for anyone to get away with using some of the language heard in the Dolphins' locker room last season.

A crackdown on insulting language pertaining to race and sexual orientation will be a point of emphasis discussed during NFL meetings in Orlando next week, when changes including adding two playoff teams could be approved.

St. Louis Rams coach Jeff Fisher, a member of the league's competition committee, stressed on a conference call with reporters Wednesday afternoon that rules already are in place regarding "insulting language," but they will become a focal point.

Without referencing the Dolphins specifically, Fisher pointed out the crackdown will involve not just the field of play, but the workplace in general. That became a hot-button topic in light of the bullying scandal that cost the Dolphins starting offensive linemen Richie Incognito and Jonathan Martin. Amid that controversy, it was revealed that Incognito directed racial slurs at Martin, although Incognito contended they weren't intended in a hurtful manner.

"It is a significant point of emphasis for us this year," Fisher said. "We're going beyond the field of play. We're going to the workplace"

Atlanta Falcons President/CEO Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said the intent is to "empower" game officials to call unsportsmanlike conduct penalties when unacceptable language is heard on the field.

Also on the agenda:

~HOA~128~128~ Peter King, veteran NFL writer for Sports Illustrated, wrote that the league will likely increase the playoff field from 12 to 14 for the 2015 season, saying postseason expansion is "probably a matter of when, not if." That's welcome news for a Dolphins franchise that has made the playoffs once in the past 12 seasons.

~HOA~128~128~ Extra points have become a forgone conclusion in the NFL, with Fisher saying only five were missed last season. Numerous proposals have been floated, including moving the line of scrimmage on PATs to the 20- or 25-yard line. Two-point conversion tries would continue to be from the 2.

~HOA~128~128~ The New England Patriots proposed allowing coaches to challenge any play they like other than scoring plays, which are automatically reviewed.

~HOA~128~128~ NFL spokesman Greg Aiello said the agenda does not include Dolphins owner Stephen Ross' offer last week to pay for up to $400 million to renovate Sun Life Stadium, but Ross is welcome to discuss it with fellow owners if he wishes. Ross made the offer last week, hoping to get Miami back in the Super Bowl rotation.

"The Super Bowl Committee will have to decide if they want to compete for the next two Super Bowls so time is of the essence," Ross in announcing his intentions. "It is time to move forward."

At the time, it was thought that Ross was referring to the 2018 Super Bowl -- the next unassigned game -- but finalists to host that game already have been narrowed down to New Orleans, Minneapolis and Indianapolis, with the winner to be selected in May. The next possible Super Bowl that could be played in South Florida is in 2019.

Still, Ross may be pressed for time because invitations to enter the stakes for that game are expected to be handed out by the NFL in August. The league has made it clear that without renovations to Sun Life, the Super Bowl will not return.

Ross' offer still must be approved by Miami-Dade County and Miami Gardens, which would have to make tax concessions or find alternatives to make up for the property taxes the Dolphins would no longer pay because they would turn over ownership of the stadium to the county.

Noteworthy: The Dolphins will send a seventh-round pick to Baltimore as part of last season's midseason trade for offensive tackle Bryant McKinnie, according to a league source.

hhabib@pbpost.com Twitter: @gunnerhal

 

March 20, 2014

 

 
 

 

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