Overtime format staying the same

Those in favor of changing the overtime format got some disappointing news on Wednesday, writes John Clayton.

Originally Published: March 28, 2007
By John Clayton | ESPN.com

PHOENIX -- Proponents of change to the NFL overtime system will have to work overtime to find a solution.

On Wednesday, NFL owners decided to table a proposal to modify the overtime system. The competition committee came up with the idea of moving kickoffs in overtime from the 30- to the 35- yard line. The change would have made it tougher for the team winning the overtime coin toss to get the winning points on the first possession. According to a competition committee study, moving kickoffs up 5 yards would mean a 5-yard difference in the start of drives in overtime.

A block of 12 to 13 opponents killed that idea. Competition co-chairman Rich McKay will survey clubs, particularly the dozen or so teams that would like to make sure each team in overtime gets a possession. McKay said he was doubtful any vote would happen this year on making an overtime change, but he's concerned about the trends because teams winning the coin toss have a distinct edge in winning overtime games.

In 2006, the team winning the coin toss won 45.5 percent of the games on that first possession. Colts coach Tony Dungy would like to see change, but he realizes this might be an issue that doesn't have easy solutions. The two-possession concept could lead to longer games and more ties. The other problem with the two-possession idea is coaches in overtime could become more defensive because they would want to kick off after winning the toss. Conservatism doesn't sell in the NFL.

Commissioner Roger Goodell isn't a supporter of the two-possession concept. "I think the focus needs to be to win the game in regulation," he said.

Here are other things that went down as the owners meeting concluded.

1. In a 26-5-1 vote, owners adopted a rule change to penalize a player if he spikes the ball after a non-scoring play has ended. "You have a player celebrating a 3-yard slant play and spiking the ball on this great achievement," McKay said sarcastically. The league felt it took too much time for the officials to chase down the ball. Plus there was the question of bad sportsmanship. In case you are wondering, the Raiders were the team that didn't vote.

2. The Bears received the formal trade offer from the Redskins, a swap of the No. 6 pick in the draft in exchange for Bears linebacker Lance Briggs and the 31st pick in the first round. The Bears are mad. They think it was unprofessional for the Redskins to team up with Briggs' agent, Drew Rosenhaus, and try to make a public trade offer without talking to them first. The Bears will study the proposal over the weekend, but they say the way this was handled makes it tougher for the trade to happen.

3. Goodell confirmed the hearings of Titans cornerback Adam "Pacman" Jones and Bengals wide receiver Chris Henry for next week. Henry and Jones are both scheduled for Tuesday. Goodell said a decision on suspensions could come within 10 days of those hearings. Henry and Jones have had repeated off-the-field offenses and will be the first players to face discipline under Goodell's new, tougher conduct policy. During these meetings, Goodell listened to clubs' suggestions for the new conduct policy. He said whatever is crafted as the policy will undergo constant revisions over the next couple of years.

4. Finally, the crowds won on the crowd-noise issues. The NFL owners voted to eliminate the old crowd-noise procedures from the rulebook. The reason for the change is more teams have used silent counts and can deal with the loud crowds. Before, a quarterback could ask an official to stop the clock if his offensive players could not hear his play call. If the crowd remained loud, an official could stop the game and order an announcement to quiet the crowd. If that didn't work, the home team could be penalized 5 yards for delay of game. Now, crowds can stay loud.

5. Down-by-contact is now a permanent part of instant replay officiating. A year ago, the league tried a one-year experiment to include runners being ruled down by contact as part of the instant replay reviews. In a 32-0 vote, down-by-contact was made a permanent fixture in replay officiating. Last season there were 17 plays in which a down-by-contact play was challenged. Five calls were overturned. This permanent change eliminates those controversial plays in which a quick whistle by an official on a contact play doesn't have a chance to be reviewed.

6. The NFL proved it isn't afraid to adopt a college rule. The NFL voted to go to the college rule when a quarterback accidentally throws a ball that hits an offensive lineman. Under the old rule, that was a 5-yard penalty because an offensive lineman is ineligible to catch a pass. The league felt that adopting the college rule and not penalizing accidental contact would speed up the game. If a lineman tries to catch the ball, though, the play will result in a 5-yard penalty.

7. The possibility of a team going to Los Angeles isn't dead, but it's on the back burner as far as the league agenda is concerned. The NFL wants a team in Los Angeles. Los Angeles is interested in getting a team. But chances of getting a new stadium in Los Angeles are bogged down in politics and funding problems. Goodell had a conversation with the mayor of Los Angeles this week about the NFL's interest in the city. It wasn't a topic during the owners' meeting. Stay tuned.

8. The Bears' proposal of increasing the active game roster size to 47 was shot down, 17-15. It needed 24 votes to pass. The Bears felt keeping two extra active players for games would be a benefit. Opponents felt it would give too much of an advantage to a healthier team. What the league doesn't want is one team having a healthy list of 47 players while another has only 40 healthy players for a game.

9. Over the next 19 months, Goodell plans to put together a new negotiating team to start collective bargaining extension talks with the NFLPA. This is the biggest challenge to the new commissioner's administration. Owners didn't like last year's CBA extension and may opt to get out of the deal in 2009. Goodell anticipates a long negotiation, but he thinks it will come to a good conclusion. For any deal to work, though, the NFL has to figure out a way to get back a few things from the union that it lost in the last agreement. That might be tough.

10. Back to the Redskins. Joe Gibbs said Wednesday morning he could trade up from the sixth pick in the draft. Gibbs said he's had two or three conversations with teams about moving up and there is a better chance of the Redskins moving up from No. 6 than moving down based on trade talks. Those possibilities could end if the Bears accept the Redskins' offer on the Briggs trade. Clearly, the Redskins don't want to draft at No. 6. They want out. It's either Briggs, trade up or trade down. The Redskins are on the move.

John Clayton is a senior writer for ESPN.com.

John Clayton

NFL senior writer

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