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Owners approve salary cap reductions

NFL owners ratified the agreement between the league and players' union that takes away $36 million in salary cap space from the Redskins and $10 million from the Cowboys.

Other than Dallas and Washington, no club voted Tuesday to oppose the agreement, which raised the salary cap for 2012 from about $113 million to $120.6 million. The Cowboys and Redskins have sought arbitration, which will be conducted by University of Pennsylvania professor Stephen Burbank.

Both teams were penalized for overloading contracts in the 2010 uncapped season despite league warnings not to do so. Each must take at least half the reduction this year.

The Cowboys will play in the season opener on Sept. 5 at the Super Bowl champion New York Giants. That game will be on a Wednesday night for the first time; President Barack Obama is scheduled to address the Democratic National Convention on Sept. 6.

"Who cares who we are playing, hosting the game is all that's important," Giants owner John Mara joked, knowing well that the NFL champion hosts the kickoff to the season. "It's exciting. They're one of our big rivals. We had two great games last year. The fans will be jacked up for it."

The owners also approved competition committee recommendations for points of emphasis in the upcoming season, including blows to the head, horse-collar tackles and taunting.

The competition committee reviewed video of blows to the head delivered by both offensive and defensive linemen and sought to re-emphasize that striking, swinging, or clubbing an opponent in the head or neck area is illegal. Game officials will be instructed to closely monitor those acts, which draw a 15-yard penalty for unnecessary roughness and can bring fines.

Horse-collar tackles increased enough that it alarmed the committee. Rich McKay, president of the Atlanta Falcons and chairman of the committee, said examples of horse-collar tackles will be part of a video shown to players at training camp.

The owners will vote Wednesday on whether to make horse-collar tackles of quarterbacks in the pocket a penalty.

Although the committee did not say that taunting of opponents increased, it is urging policing such acts be emphasized.

Other points of emphasis will spotlight pre-snap movement; players not lining up on the line of scrimmage; a runner declaring himself down; and substitutions that try to confuse the opponent.

The Cowboys' last game also was at the Meadowlands, where the Giants beat them 31-14 to win the NFC East. That was the second of six straight victories for New York that culminated in their Super Bowl win over New England.

The telecast of that victory over Dallas averaged 27.6 million viewers, the most ever for a Sunday night game. It was the most-watched regular-season prime-time game in 15 years.

"I don't think a division game means much," Mara said. "We knew it would be a tough opponent."

It will be the first time the Giants closed one season and opened the next one in the same venue against the same opponent since 1994-95. Back then, it was also the Cowboys, at Giants Stadium.

"That was when we were supposed to close the gap on the Cowboys," Mara said, smiling at the recollection. "And Emmitt (Smith) ran for 60-something yards on the first play."