August 22, 2009
Spending $1.2 billion on a football stadium can get you a lot, but apparently not a good sense of how high to hang 2,100-inch video screens above the field.
At the debut of the new Dallas Cowboys stadium last night, Tennessee Titans punter A.J. Trapasso kicked a ball that struck one of the gargantuan high-definition scoreboards that hang over the center of the field. Trapasso's punt sailed straight up and hit one of the two scoreboards that face the endzone. It deflected backward and was ruled in-play until Titans coach Jeff Fisher informed officials (who had been watching the players, not the ball) that the punt struck the scoreboard. By rule, the down was replayed.
Jerry Jones wasn't happy with the kick, not so much because he felt that somebody on his engineering team screwed up by placing the video boards too low, but because he seems to think that Trapasso was trying to hit the board on purpose. When asked whether he thought the scoreboard should be raised higher, Jones snapped:
"That's not the point. How high is high if somebody just wants to sit there and kick straight up?
"If you look at how you punt the football, unless you're trying to hit the scoreboard, you punt the ball to get downfield. You certainly want to get some hangtime, but you punt the ball to get downfield, and you sure don't punt the ball down the middle. You punt it off to the side."
"I hit it probably a dozen times in pregame," Hentrich said. "Probably somewhere around a five-second punt is going to hit it and some of the guys in the league wouldn't be able to punt here if it's not raised, they'd just be non-stop hitting it. I don't know what the people were thinking. I guess they should have tested things out before they put that thing in place. It'll have to be raised."
Despite his dismissive response to the incident, Jerry Jones may have a point. Watching a replay of the kick, it sure does look like Trapasso is trying to boot the ball as high as he can, a method that punters usually only use on shorter punts designed to pin a team back. (The Titans kicked from their own 37-yard line, so Trapasso should have been trying more for length than height.)
That doesn't mean that directional punts won't find their way toward the "Jerrytron" this season. Even the Cowboys own punter, Mat McBriar(notes), thinks that a kick with a 4.9-second hangtime will strike the screen. If that happens more than once or twice, Jerry Jones and the Cowboys might find out that when it comes to video screens, bigger isn't always better.
Update: Mike Periera, the NFL's director of officiating, told The Los Angeles Times that the league will look into the problem this week. The concern is that a punter could intentionally try to hit the video screen in order to run out the clock at the end of a half. When a down is replayed, the clock doesn't reset.
"We haven't talked at all about time being put on the clock," Periera said. "The only thing we've talked about really is the do-over of the play. We've never talked about resetting the clock back to where it was. That's obviously something we're going to have to talk about. And that may be what we arrive at.
I would say that it's a big enough issue that we're going to have to address it with the competition committee here probably sometime this week to figure out what direction we want to go."
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