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Pre-game 'neutral zone' set after Eagles-Falcons fracas

In the wake of the Eagles-Falcons pre-game scuffle last Monday night, the National Football League has instituted a "neutral zone" for pregame warmups, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Monday.

The league has notified all of its clubs there is now a 10-yard neutral zone between the 45-yard lines for all pregame warmups.

Game officials will be situated in this neutral zone to police it. No players, expect for punters and kickers, are allowed in the 10-yard neutral zone. Any other player who enters the neutral zone will be warned; if the player remains or re-enters the zone after that, he will be subject to a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty that his team would endure at the start of the game.

As the Atlanta players were trotting back to the locker room before last Monday's season opener, they noticed the Eagles gathering on the Falcons logo in the middle of the field.

The Falcons ran en masse back to the 50-yard line and fought for position with the Eagles, forcing the officials to separate the teams. No punches were thrown, and both teams went off slowly in opposite directions to their respective locker rooms.

The fracas at midfield followed a scuffle between Eagles linebacker Jeremiah Trotter and Falcons cornerback Kevin Mathis.

Trotter apparently pushed Mathis, who responded with a punch. Another Falcons cornerback, DeAngelo Hall, also appeared to throw a punch. Then everyone got into it, forcing the officials to step in.

Nine players were fined for their roles in the fight. Falcons cornerback Kevin Mathis and Trotter, who were ejected before kickoff, both got $5,000 fines. Also receiving a $5,000 hit was Hall for unsportsmanlike conduct for grabbing an opponent's facemask and then throwing the opponent's helmet.

Two Falcons were fined $2,500 for entering a fight area, which made them active participants -- safety Keion Carpenter
and cornerback-kick returner Allen Rossum. Safety Kevin McCadam got a $1,000 fine.

Along with Trotter, the three Eagles fined for entering a fight area were linebackers Keith Adams, Jason Short and Mike Labinjo.

Also, league officials were concerned that Eagles owner Jeffrey Lurie and Falcons GM Rick McKay were involved in pregame discussions with game officials on the field last Monday after the Eagles-Falcons scuffle. The league has informed all teams that from now on only the two head coaches can have any discussions with game officials about a pregame incident.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.