WOODY: NFL recognizes a fumble

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The National Football League, already on edge after one of its refs' seeing-eye dogs tried to bite Beyonce during halftime of the Super Bowl, finally succumbed to criticism and rescinded its so-called "tuck rule."

It was always a silly rule: if a quarterback fumbled the ball and shouted "Tuck!" before the defense yelled "Simon Says!" the offense got to keep possession.

I'm kidding. The actual tuck rule was much more ridiculous than that.

Under the tuck rule, if a quarterback fumbled the ball while attempting to "tuck it away" then it's wasn't a fumble.

Of course it was a fumble - HE DROPPED THE DARN BALL -- but who are you supposed to believe - your own eyes or the NFL rule book?

The NFL has always been sensitive to criticism. I covered the league for three years and once made the mistake of referring to a "pre-season game" as an "exhibition game."

I got a snippy letter from the league office. The then-Commissioner explained how important "pre-season" games are, even though the wins and losses don't count, the players' statistics don't count, and most coaches - if they're smart -- don't allow their starters to work up a serious sweat.

The only thing that counts in a pre-season game is the loot that team owners squeeze out of fans by including the meaningless scrimmages in the season-ticket package.

Naturally I was humbled by the fact that the Commissioner of the biggest sports league on the planet would take time out of his busy schedule of cocktail parties to send me a snippy letter.

I responded by continuing to refer to the league's glorified practice sessions as "exhibition games" every chance I got, just to aggravate the Commish.

Back to the tuck rule: now that the NFL has done away with it, here are a few other suggested tweaks while it has its Thinking Cap on:

. Dump the Two-Minute Warning. What do they warn the teams about, anyway?

. Explain why, exactly, the ground can't cause a fumble.

. Do away with the off-week before the Super Bowl. Do they really need 14 days to hype a 60-minute football game?

. Put the Pro Bowl on the shelf with the leather helmets. Who wants to watch a bunch of losers and left-overs play touch in Hawaii?

. Re-name the "unabated to the quarterback" rule. Most fans don't know what abated means.

. Include offensive holding in "reviewable" plays for instant replay. A blown holding call can turn a game around faster than O.J. in a Bronco.

. On second thought, do away with instant replay. To err is human.

One rule I do like: the NFL's crackdown on choreographed celebrations. There's no need to have the Rockettes perform in the end zone after every touchdown.

The way things were going, the player who scored would eventually be doing a trapeze act with the Flying Wallendas from the goal post while down below elephants paraded, jugglers rode unicycles and lion-tampers cracked their whips.

And speaking of celebrations, what really burns my grits is when a player makes a routine tackle and breaks into a dance routine from Saturday Night Fever. One behemoth knocked down another behemoth. Big deal. He didn't exactly split the atom.

Cool it Fred Astaire, and get your big, over-priced behind back in the huddle.

Those are my suggestions. I expect to hear from the Commissioner any day now.

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