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NFL warns against criticizing officials

National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue, upset by an avalanche of complaints about officiating this year, has warned coaches and team executives that they risk substantial fines for publicly criticizing officials, the San Francisco Chronicle reported Tuesday. Officials have been the targets of unusually heavy criticism this season, largely because of a series of botched calls in two successive Monday night televised games, which attract the most attention.

Tagliabue, in a memorandum to owners, club presidents, general managers and head coaches, reiterated league policy against criticizing officials.

Under the league's constitution, Tagliabue has the authority to assess fines of as much as $500,000 for "detrimental conduct."

Around the league

Redskins: Attorneys for wide receiver Ricky Sanders negotiated with team representatives to schedule an aggravated assault trial against Sanders before the season ends.

A state district judge in Houston ordered prosecutors and defense attorneys to determine by today a date.

Prosecutors contend Sanders ran over a valet parking attendant and failed to stop and help him after an argument at a topless nightclub parking lot in Houston last May.

49ers: Rookie wide receiver Ron Lewis, a third-round pick from Florida State, probably will be activated later in the week to take the place of wideout Mike Sherrard, who broke his leg against Cleveland and will be out six to eight weeks.

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