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Posted: Monday September 8, 2008 6:39AM; Updated: Monday September 8, 2008 10:28AM
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Kickers have a little more red tape to cut through if they want to manipulate K-balls.
Kickers have a little more red tape to cut through if they want to manipulate K-balls.
Otto Gruele Jr./Getty Images
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Peter King will answer your questions each week in Monday Morning Quarterback: Tuesday Edition.

What I Learned About Football This Week That I Didn't Know Last Week

NFL Paranoia 101:

The NFL now pays three employees $100 apiece, per game to work on the field in ways that George Halas and Paul Brown could never have imagined.

One NFL temp is called the K-Ball coordinator. K-balls are the footballs used only on kicking and punting plays. There are 12 in use for games at outdoor stadiums, eight for domes, and the balls can be worked on to soften the leather 45 minutes before the game by club ballboys, equipment men or even the kickers and punters themselves.

The K-Ball coordinator job was filled at each stadium beginning in the 2007 season (often by college officials residing in the area of each team) because the league discovered that kickers and punters were coercing sideline ballboys to break in the K-balls before the game, and as the game was going on. The K-ball coordinator holds onto the balls, ensuring that no players or club employee can work on them once the game begins, and he also rotates two balls as the primary K-balls during the game.

The theory is, the more a ball is used, the more supple it gets and the farther it will travel. So unless there is weather damage or one of the balls is lost in the stands, most games are played with only two K-balls being used.

Each NFL game beginning this weekend had two new employees, hired to guard the second defensive helmet used for communication on each bench.

I am not kidding. The NFL is paying $200 per game so a second defensive player cannot be outfitted with a helmet with a speaker in it while the first one is in use on the field.

The NFL passed a rule in April to allow communication between the sideline and one defensive player on the field, the same as offensive coach-to-quarterback communication. Theoretically, this would take away some of the advantage an offense has had for several years, with coaches being able to call plays into a quarterback's ear until the 15-second mark on the play clock.

But because many defensive players don't play every snap, the rule allowed for a second player to have a speaker in his helmet, but only if the first defensive player wasn't in the game. So the second player needs to have two helmets: one that he'll wear when he's not getting the play called into him, and one with a speaker in the helmet. To prevent a team from having both players with the speaker in the helmet in the game on the same play, the NFL decided to put a man in an official's hat and white official's pants on each sideline to guard the backup defensive-communicator's helmet.

Thoroughly confused? Or thoroughly disgusted?

There are 267 games in the NFL this year -- 256 regular-season games and 11 more in the playoffs. Thus, the NFL will spend $80,100 for those three employees to do their sacred duties at each game.

Quote of the Week I

"A couple of times, I just winged it and said, 'Hey guys, same play.' OK, ready, break, whatever.''
-- Brett Favre, on improvising during his first non-Green Bay start of his 277-game starting streak, a 20-14 Jets win at Miami.

Quote of the Week II

"I don't think I was slowed down much by the knee.''
-- San Diego linebacker Shawne Merriman, who has been advised to have surgery to repair two slightly torn knee ligaments but played Sunday with a knee brace in the Chargers' loss to Carolina.

Quote of the Week III

"There's no explanation I can give to justify what I did and I'm not going to try to waste their time trying to. I can stand up and say, 'I've made a mistake.' I'll be the first one to own up to it.''
-- Carolina receiver Steve Smith, on the Athletes United for Youth Web site, explaining his suspension by the team for two games -- including Sunday's opening victory at San Diego -- for coldcocking teammate Ken Lucas in training camp.

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