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Officials to use new signal to identify ineligible receiver

Nate Solder of the New England Patriots crosses

Nate Solder of the New England Patriots crosses the goal line for a touchdown in the third quarter against D'Qwell Jackson of the Indianapolis Colts of the 2015 AFC Championship Game at Gillette Stadium on Jan. 18, 2015 in Foxboro, Mass. Photo Credit: Getty Images / Jared Wickerham

PHOENIX - There will be an unfamiliar signal from the referee on Sunday.

Because of the Patriots' use of players who wear numbers of eligible receivers but line up as ineligible, Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said the referee in the Super Bowl will signal the presence of such players to alert the defense. The signal will be an announcement of the number and waving of the arms as if an incomplete pass, but on a vertical plane over the legs.

The Patriots have been using those alignments to confuse opponents for several weeks, most notably the Ravens in the AFC divisional round.

"After the Indianapolis game, some things popped up, so I went right to call them in to find out what is going to happen about the mechanics of stuff,'' Carroll said of contacting the league for clarification. "They came back with a very clear response about that.''

The usual signal will be used when a player with an ineligible number reports as eligible. In that case, the referee will announce the number and make an up-and-down motion across his chest.

"I know the league is absolutely committed to getting that right and doing that well,'' Carroll said. "The Patriots have brought that to the forefront because they've been using some stuff like that lately.''

NFL vice president of officiating Dean Blandino confirmed that the referee will use the signal for an ineligible player. He added that while obscure, it isn't something new.

"I think it was just in the conversation, [Carroll] may have misinterpreted that it was new," he said. "We actually did do it during the AFC Championship Game."

Carroll added that one use of that alignment by the Patriots in the AFC Championship Game should have been illegal. That play resulted in a touchdown. Blandino agreed it was an illegal play and should have been a penalty.

"That shouldn't have happened,'' Carroll said. "That's something that could happen. The Colts got fooled on that play. On the next player reporting eligible, it was a different player, so it got confusing and they miscovered the guy. We don't want that to happen if we can help it, so we called in and asked about that.''

Ultimately, though, Carroll said the responsibility falls on his players on the field and his coaches and not the officials.

"It's really on us to see it,'' he said. "The officials do what they do, but we still have to find it because it could happen like it did to the Colts. We're very much in tune with it. It has been part of the preparation, so it's not a big deal to us now.''


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