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Are referees getting too flag-shy?
NFL admits officials missed 6 Pats penalties in AFC final
By Dan Pompei
Updated: 02:26 PM PT  Jan. 27, 2004

The competition committee is expected to take a look at officials becoming flag-shy in the postseason.

Judging by the defensive game plans of New England's Bill Belichick and Carolina's John Fox in the AFC and NFC championship games, coaches obviously are anticipating officials allowing more physical play in the playoffs.

After the fact, the league office quietly admitted that Walt Coleman's crew missed six calls against the Patriots in the AFC championship game, including a defensive holding on third down with 1:51 remaining in the game, and a pass interference on the subsequent fourth down. The Patriots led 21-14 at the time.

The victim on both non-calls was Colts TE Marcus Pollard. Officials also admit holding by Patriots G Joe Andruzzi on Colts DE Robert Mathis was missed on a fourth-and-9 that the Patriots converted in the second quarter. The Patriots ended the drive with a field goal for a 13-0 lead. . . .

Daryl Gardener's signing last March was a disaster for the Broncos, as he feuded with coaches, loafed, broke team rules and was suspended twice. But Broncos coach Mike Shanahan, who Gardener called the little man up there,'' is willing to give the defensive tackle another chance--if his teammates want him back.

Shanahan plans on leaving Gardener's future up to the team's veteran leaders. He is asking a group of players that includes Trevor Pryce, John Mobley, Al Wilson, Rod Smith, Shannon Sharpe, Tom Nalen and Jake Plummer about Gardener's return. Shanahan asked the group earlier in the season if he should keep Gardener on the active roster, and the vote went against Gardener. . . .

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Messing with a successful front office chemistry might prove dangerous for Titans owner Bud Adams, who last week decided not to renew the contract of team president Jeff Diamond in order to keep the budget in line. The problem: The salary of coach Jeff Fisher increases by about $2 million this year as he deservedly becomes one of the league's highest-paid coaches with a salary near $5 million.

Adams wanted to look for a way to make up some of that money, so he lopped off Diamond, taking on the president's role himself even though Diamond did nothing to lose his job. At 81, Adams won't have day-to-day impact on the Titans, so the leadership void created by Diamond's departure could be a problem. . . .

Signing Gunther Cunningham as defensive coordinator has given the Chiefs offices a jolt of energy and some good vibrations. S Jerome Woods was so excited about the move he traveled from Memphis to Kansas City just to hug Cunningham at the news conference.

Team president Carl Peterson deserves credit for pushing coach Dick Vermeil to make a change and consider Cunningham, the Chiefs' former head coach. And Vermeil deserves credit for making it happen, even flying to Cunningham's house in the Nashville area to woo him with a bottle of wine made from Vermeil's grapes.

The signing could have implications for Woods and DE Eric Hicks, whose contracts are up. Both are "Cunningham guys," and Hicks had a career-high 14 sacks in Cunningham's second year as coach (2000).

© 2004 The Sporting News
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