Cowboys punter not bothered by screens over field

Associated Press

IRVING, Texas (AP) — The punter who will be kicking more in the new Cowboys Stadium than anyone else isn't bothered by the huge video display boards looming over the middle of the field.

"Our game plan is to kick to the sidelines. So for myself it's not in my mind," Cowboys punter Mat McBriar said Monday. "I know it's there, obviously. But it's not something that catches my eye as much as guys who are kicking straight down the field."

The 60-yard-long high-definition screens, one facing each sideline, are only 90 feet above the field and can become easy targets.

"We've worked closely with the league establishing the height of the video board," Cowboys spokesman Brett Daniels said. "We believe in a competitive game situation the height of the board will not be a factor."

McBriar said there is no reason to make any changes or raise the video boards because one punt in one game hit them.

Tennessee rookie A.J. Trapasso punted a ball into the screens in the third quarter of the stadium's first NFL game Friday night, forcing a do-over once the officials realized what happened. That punt didn't count, but there were 12 punts — six by each team — that weren't affected by the screens.

Trapasso and Titans veteran punter Craig Hentrich both punted several balls into the video boards during pregame warmups.

McBriar, a 2006 Pro Bowler, said he could boot punts into the video boards "probably 50 percent of the time" if that was what he was trying to do.

Tennessee coach Jeff Fisher, the co-chair of the NFL's competition committee, said the height of the boards "is an issue." The NFL has said it will monitor the situation.

Cowboys owner Jerry Jones, who has said he's comfortable with the boards, wasn't available for comment Monday when the team returned to practice at Valley Ranch.

Stephen Jones, the owner's son and team vice president, talked to reporters in the hallway after practice about several subjects, but declined to answer questions about the video boards.

Among the things Stephen Jones did address were contract negotiations with Pro Bowl linebacker DeMarcus Ware, who led the NFL with 20 sacks last season. Jones said the Cowboys remained hopeful of getting a new deal done, though there have been no discussions with Ware or his agent since training camp opened last month after both sides exchanged several proposals.

Coach Wade Phillips believes the massive video boards could provide an edge for his team's kick returners as they get used to the nearly $1.2 billion stadium.

"It might even be an advantage for us to work in there enough to where we have a feel for where the ball is and seeing it with the screen up there and all those things," Phillips said.

Cowboys returner Patrick Crayton muffed his first punt return in the new stadium Friday night. He refused to blame that on the screens, though acknowledged he needed to adjust to them.

"It's a little different because the lights are at different angles, too," Crayton said. "You've just got to kind of watch the ball the whole time, because it will almost like it's going to hit every time."

Daniels said work done on the video boards over the weekend was the installation of equipment to lower them even closer to the stadium floor to maximize their use for other events. When the boards are raised to accommodate the stage for a U2 concert Oct. 12, they will be disconnected and inoperable.

"Following U2, the boards will return to the standard height of 90 feet above the playing field," Daniels said.

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