Punter kicks into HD screen over field
ARLINGTON, Texas -- The Tennessee Titans felt they exposed a major flaw in Cowboys Stadium during the first football game played in the building when reserve punter A.J. Trapasso hit the gigantic HD screen that hangs over the field.
But after a 30-10 Dallas win, Cowboys owner Jerry Jones said he doesn't think it is an issue. The NFL signed off on the 160-foot long, 90-foot high video board, Jones said, and he does not plan to alter it.
After Trapasso's punt with 8:07 on the clock in the third quarter, Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher threw his red challenge flag and talked to referee Walt Anderson before fourth down was replayed.
"It's an issue, yeah," said Fisher, who serves as co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee. "I'm sure the Cowboys or the league will tell you, I shouldn't have to throw a flag out there because [the officiating crew] didn't see the ball hit the scoreboard. Now, it's not necessarily their responsibility. Once a fair catch signal is given, then there are no eyes on the ball anymore. So they don't see it. So something has to get worked out. It can become a problem."
Said Jones after his team's debut in the $1.2 billion stadium: "You don't need to move it. You gotta be trying to do it. The rule is very clear. You just kick it over."
Jones implied that having the video board in play provided an "entertainment value" and that both teams would have to deal with it. But the owner repeatedly said that the normal trajectory of an NFL punt would not bring the video board into play. He could move a Mitsubishi Electric sign that hangs off the bottom edge of the board.
Both Trapasso, an undrafted rookie out of Ohio State, and veteran Craig Hentrich hit the video board in warm-ups and marveled at how engineers, architects and ownership failed to anticipate the issue.
"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 nonstop 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."
Jones said a punter needed to kick the ball "straight up and hard" to have any chance of making contact with the board. He didn't understand why anyone would take that approach.
Trapasso said he didn't try to hit the board during the game, but admitted warm-ups were different.
Cowboys punter Mat McBriar never came close to hitting the video board. It was his first time punting at Cowboys Stadium and he said he doesn't think it will be an issue for him.
Trapasso's not in line to be part of the Titans' roster after cut-downs. But he's made a mark in just three preseason games, scoring a 40-yard touchdown on fake punt in the Hall of Fame Game on Aug. 9 and qualifying as the first player to put the Cowboys' scoreboard into play.
He joked that San Diego's Mike Scifres "might put a hole in the bottom of that thing." The Chargers are scheduled to play in Arlington on Dec. 13.
"With the size of that TV, there's not going to be a whole lot of room above it," he said. "I think after a billion dollars and the way you watch people kick, somebody could have figured that math out a little bit."
Paul Kuharsky covers the AFC South and Matt Mosley covers the NFC East for ESPN.com.
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