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1998 NFL Season
79th season in the history of the National Football League
Mike Pereira left the field after two seasons as a side judge to become an assistant supervisor of officials. He succeeded Jerry Seeman as Vice President of Officiating in 2001. Pereira's replacement, Terry McAulay, assumed Pereira's old position and uniform number (77). McAulay was promoted to referee in 2001 and was crew chief for three Super Bowls (XXXIX, XLIII and XLVIII).
Major rule changes
The officiating position titles of back judge and field judge were swapped to become more consistent with college and high school football. The field judge is now 20 yards deep, positioned on the same sideline as the line judge, while the back judge is 25 yards from the line of scrimmage near the center of the field.
Tinted visors on players' facemasks are banned except for medical need.
A defensive player can no longer flinch before the snap in an attempt to draw movement from an offensive lineman.
A team will be penalized immediately for having 12 players in a huddle even if the 12th player goes straight to the sideline as the huddle breaks.
During the season, the rules regarding the coin toss were changed to where the visiting team must make the call before the coin is tossed instead of while it was in the air. On Thanksgiving, the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Detroit Lions went to overtime. During the coin toss, Steelers running back Jerome Bettis was heard calling "tails" but referee Phil Luckett claimed he said "heads". The coin landed on tails, and the Lions won the toss and eventually the game on a Jason Hanson field goal. It was later revealed that Bettis had changed his mind during the call and was originally going to call "heads" but stopped. Thus, the rule change was adopted to prevent any further confusion.
Hall of Fame Game
The 1998 Hall of Fame Class included Paul Krause, Tommy McDonald, Anthony Muñoz, an offensive lineman for the Cincinnati Bengals, Mike Singletary, a member of the Chicago Bears Super Bowl XX championship team, and Dwight Stephenson, a Pro Bowl offensive lineman with the Miami Dolphins.
Thanksgiving: Two games were played on Thursday, November 26, featuring the Pittsburgh Steelers at the Detroit Lions and the Minnesota Vikings at the Dallas Cowboys, with the Lions and Vikings winning. The Steelers-Lions game is notable for going into overtime, where the Steelers' Jerome Bettis called the coin toss in the air, but referee Phil Luckett awarded the Lions the ball after he thought Bettis tried to call both heads and tails at the same time. The Lions went on to kick a field goal on the first possession, winning 19-16. In the other game, Vikings rookie wide receiver Randy Moss caught three touchdowns, all of over 50 yards in a 46-36 win.
This was the first season that CBS held the rights to televise American Football Conferencegames, taking over the package from NBC. Meanwhile, this was the first time that ESPN broadcast all of the Sunday night games throughout the season (this was also the first season in which ESPN's coverage used the Monday Night Football themes, before reverting to using an original theme in 2001). This was also the first season where the late games kicked off at 4:05pm ET & 4:15pm ET (replacing the original 4:00pm ET start time), to give more time to finish the early games before the start of the late games. The 4:15 start time would last until 2011.