Birk joins Cottrell as NFL appeals officers

Former Vikings center Matt Birk will be one of two NFL officers reviewing league discipline handed out for on-field conduct.

Recently retired Matt Birk will replace Art Shell as one of two appeals officers approved by the NFL and the players' union.

Birk, who played center on the Super Bowl-winning Baltimore Ravens this year before ending his 15-year career, will join Ted Cottrell in the job.

The league and the NFL Players Association must approve each officer, and the union's executive committee asked for Birk to succeed Shell. The league has agreed to that move, and both sides approved Cottrell to remain in the position.

Under the collective bargaining agreement signed in 2011, the officers review discipline handed out for on-field conduct. Player suspensions must be appealed in three days to the officers, and their decisions are binding.

The league and union also announced Friday that fine levels for on-field discipline will not be increased this year. They were supposed to go up 5 percent each year under the labor contract. The decision not to increase the fines is based on players having adjusted to the rules, and the number of fines has dropped.

According to statistics obtained by The Associated Press, total fines issued by the NFL have declined 32 percent since 2009, from 668 to 451. From 2011 to 2012, they went down 4.5 percent, from 472 to 451.

Total fines for illegal hits on quarterbacks dropped 46.4 percent in the last four seasons, from 114 in 2009 to 61 last season.


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