ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell likes the proposal to modify overtime in the playoffs. Can his support sway enough owners to approve it for next season?
The competition committee recommended Monday to the 32 owners that a team losing the coin toss and then surrendering a field goal on the first possession should have a series of its own in OT. Such a rules change would need 24 votes for ratification.
“This stays true to the integrity of the game,” Goodell said. “The competition committee has come up with something very much worth considering. It keeps the tradition of sudden death, and I think it is responsive to some of the issues that have been brought up.
“It’s getting a lot of thought. It’s got potential to be a better system.”
Statistics examined by the committee showed that since 1994, teams winning the coin toss win the game 59.8 percent of the time. The team that loses the toss wins the game 38.5 percent in that 15-year span, or since kickoffs were moved back 5 yards to the 30.
Those numbers alarmed Indianapolis Colts president Bill Polian, a member of the committee.
“We felt the stats are so arresting that something needs to be done,” Polian said. “The original framers of the rule did not project the movement of the kickoff, or (the trend) in improvement of kickers.”
One owner who would seem to have reason to favor the modification, Minnesota’s Zygi Wilf, is not convinced it’s a wise move. The Vikings lost the coin toss for overtime in the NFC title game, then saw the Saints march to a winning field goal on the first — and only — series.
Still, as of Monday, Wilf was leaning toward voting no to a switch.
“We need consistency of the regular season and postseason,” he said.
But, as Polian and other committee members point out, the playoffs already have different overtime rules.
“We play until there is a winner,” Polian said.
During the regular season, a winner must be decided within a 15-minute extra period.
The reason the proposal is only for the playoffs is player safety.
“We are very concerned about injuries occurring, which is the one great reason it has not been proposed before,” Polian added.
Goodell’s positive outlook on the overtime modification can’t hurt its chances of passing, according to competition committee co-chairman Rich McKay.
“It’s important,” McKay said. “He’s the one the owners would listen to. I think he’ll leave it to us as a committee to make sure we make the case on the competitive aspect …”
A proposal for a play to be whistled dead immediately when the helmet of the ball-carrier comes off also will draw much debate by owners. If passed, the ball will be spotted at the “progress spot where the helmet comes off,” said the other competition committee co-chairman, Jeff Fisher, coach of the Tennessee Titans.
Barring unforeseen opposition, the positioning of the umpire will be moved from in the area of the linebackers to behind the offensive backfield. No vote is needed on this change, which is being made because McKay said the competition committee had at least 100 instances of umpires being knocked to the ground last season.
“They’re kind of back there trying to survive,” McKay said of the umpires’ previous positioning.
Goodell shed little light on the labor situation. It’s been several weeks since the league and the players union have held negotiations, but he blamed logistics. The NFLPA held its annual meetings in Maui earlier this month, and now the league is doing the same in Orlando.
“In the next week or so, the two sides will talk and I guess will be setting up some negotiating sessions,” he said. “It’s early; we’re in the first quarter here.”
The collective bargaining agreement expires next March and a work stoppage is possible without a new deal.
Goodell emphasized the league’s intention to pursue all avenues in the StarCaps case now before a Minnesota judge. Vikings defensive tackles Pat Williams and Kevin Williams so far have successfully fought suspension under the NFL’s anti-drug policy, arguing the NFL has unevenly enforced the policy and didn’t properly inform players about the weight-loss supplement containing a banned substance.
Judge Gary Larson is accepting documents in the case after testifying recently concluded.
“This is very important to make sure we have a credible (anti-drug) program,” Goodell said. “And we can’t have that if we have different states and different players having different standards. It’s not just true for us but for all sports.”