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NFL changes rule on removing helmet


Tony Grossi

Plain Dealer Reporter

There will never be another National Football League game to end like the Dwayne Rudd helmet toss loss to Kansas City last season.

The NFL has changed one of its rules to guarantee it.

NFL referee Walt Anderson, on hand for the Browns-Buffalo Bills scrimmage, disclosed yesterday that the league clarified its rule against players removing their helmets.

Anderson said that this season, the helmet rule is considered a dead-ball foul, which means it will be enforced only if there is time left on the clock.

Rudd removed his helmet thinking he had sacked Kansas City quarterback Trent Green on the last play of the game. Green, however, managed to lateral the ball to offensive tackle John Tait, who ran to the Browns' 25 before being knocked out of bounds with no time on the clock.

The officials penalized Rudd, stepped off half the distance to the goal line and allowed the Chiefs to kick a field goal of 30 yards to win the game, 40-39.

Had the new rule been in effect, Anderson said, the Chiefs would not have been given the field-goal try. The Browns would have won, 39-37.

"The committee tries to assess things that happen and what is the appropriate penalty for that," Anderson said. "Sometimes, rules are changed because things happen."

Small consolation for Butch Davis.

"We've kind of been the test case on several things since I've been here, from the Jacksonville game (in 2001)," the Browns' coach said. "We've had some bizarre endings to games. You hate to be a test case every year for the NFL. Hopefully, we won't be this year."

In truth, the added victory would not have altered the Browns' place in the AFC playoffs as the sixth seed.

But it certainly would have prevented a few sleepless nights for Rudd, and probably Davis.

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