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Strengthening Rooney Rule comes to fore at NFL meetings

| Wednesday, March 20, 2013, 3:12 p.m.
NFL commissioner Roger Goodell speaks during a news conference at the Arizona Biltmore, Monday, March 18, 2013, in Phoenix for the start of NFL football annual meetings.

PHOENIX — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said he believes the Rooney Rule needs to be expanded and so does the family for which it is named. The problem is figuring out how to do it.

At his news conference Wednesday wrapping up the annual NFL meetings, Goodell emphasized that a deeper pool of minority candidates must be developed so they merit consideration for key job openings and not just those for coaches and general managers.

But owners did not make modifications to the rule — named for Steelers co-owner Dan Rooney — such as adding offensive and defensive coordinators to the list of jobs for which minority candidates must be interviewed.

Numerous executives have called for the Rooney Rule to be expanded after more than a dozen head coaching and general manager jobs were filled during the offseason without a minority candidate being hired.

One modification would be to extend the hiring freeze until after the Super Bowl so coaches involved in that game would have a chance to interview for attractive jobs.

Steelers coach Mike Tomlin is among those eager to see the Rooney Rule expanded or made stronger. So is team president Art Rooney II, who like Goodell, said it's figuring out how to best do it.

“I think the rule is obviously great in spirit. I think it's one that needs to be continually discussed, and I think what transpired this year in the National Football League is an opportunity to continue to do that,” Tomlin said. “I don't think that we, any of us, need to get comfortable with the state of the rule or the initiative. I think comfort is a dangerous thing in that regard. I think that we all need to be on alert and have our senses heightened toward the issues and continually discuss betterment in that area.”

Also Wednesday, NFL owners passed the so-called Jim Schwartz rule, named for the Lions coach who cost his team a chance to have a play reviewed last season when he incorrectly threw a challenge flag. The modification means that if a play is eligible to be reviewed, it will be regardless if a coach accidentally throws a challenge flag.

Goodell also announced the Pro Bowl — in danger not long ago — will return to Honolulu on Jan. 26. One idea being tossed around is having the players draft teams, a system like that in the NHL, rather than matching the AFC vs. NFC.

Alan Robinson is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at arobinson@tribweb.com or via Twitter @arobinson_Trib.

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