The NFL has some bad news for Lester Hayes...

KAANAPALI, Hawaii -- The NFL has some bad news for Lester Hayes and Donald Orr.

The league owners passed 10 rule changes at their annual meeting Wednesday, and the most interesting ones affected Hayes, a star cornerback for the Oakland Raiders, and Orr, a veteran offical.


The owners banned the use of foreign substances such as stickum by the players starting next season. Many players have used some stickum, but it was Hayes who became celebrated for spreading it all over his uniform and hands.

League officials said the stickum was getting on the ball and the solvent used to remove the substance from the ball made it slippery.

The NFL is also conscious of its image and wasn't particularly pleased with all the television shots of Hayes covered with the gooey substance.

The league also changed the definition of what constitutes a legal catch, and that will affect Orr and the other league officials.


Orr is the official who ruled Mike Renfro did not have posession of the ball in the 1979 Pittsburgh-Houston playoff game. And he was the same official that ruled Butch Johnson did not have possession of a catch in the Dallas-Atlanta game last january.

Orr was operating under the old interpretation that a receiver has to have possession of the ball long enough to perfom an act 'common to the game.'

Under the new interpretation, a player is ruled to have possession as long he controls the ball with both feet in bounds.

Under this interpretaion, Johnson's catch would be legal. He was stripped of the ball immediately after making the catch and Orr ruled he didn't have possession.

The irony of this situation is that the Competition Committee felt Johnson should have been ruled in possession of the ball, even under the old definition. But the officials, in effect, were operating under a different interpretation than the rulemakers had intended.

Miami coach Don Shula, a member of the Competition Committee, said, 'There wasn't any doubt that Johnson's catch should have been ruled a touchdown.'

The new rule is intended to cover receptions anywhere on the field, including the end zone.


Most of the other rule changes are very technical and the average fan will not notice much difference while the games are being played.

For example, a player who plays at a position different than his number is intended for now must report to the official before each play instead of just when he comes into the game.

The penalty for offensive blocking from behind above the waist was changed from clipping to illegal use of the hands. That means the penalty is now 10 yards instead of 15 yards. The rule was changed because there had been so many clipping penalties on kicking plays.

The fourth-down fumble rule also was changed so that any player can advance the ball when the holder fumbles the snap on a kick play. A year ago, the advancement of fourth down fumbles was forbidden by any player except the one who fumbled because of the celebrated fumble in the San Diego-Oakland game.

The owners today were to hear a report from their attorney on the status of their lawsuit attempting to block Raiders owner Al Davis from moving the team from Oakland to Los Angeles.

They will resume voting on rule changes Friday.


The most important proposal left on the table is one to move the site of the conference championship games to neutral, warm-weather sites.

Dallas President Tex Schramm, the head of the Competition Committee, was pushing the proposal, but it was running into heavy opposition and appeared likely to be defeated.

It was expected that teams from cold weather sites, such as Dan Rooney of Pittsburgh and Art Model of Cleveland, would oppose the move.

But even owners from warm weather sites like Joe Robbie of Miami and Gene Klein of San Diego are opposed to the move because it would deprive the home fans of a chance to see the championship games.

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