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McKay unsure if OT proposal has the votes

UPDATED (4:25 p.m.)...

Atlanta Falcons President Rich McKay, the co-chairman of the NFL's competition committee, said Wednesday he's unsure if the committee's proposal to modify the sport's overtime format will generate the necessary votes to be ratified by the franchise owners next week.

"I can't say that I have any sense for the votes," McKay said during a conference call with reporters. "In the past, people have been quick to say that our system works very well and why would we change it? That's always been a blocking point, if you will, to change. In this case, we just try to make a statistical argument that the time may have come to innovate a little bit when it comes to overtime and there's a reason statistically to do so. But it will be interesting to see when we get to that discussion."

The competition committee's proposal, which would apply to the postseason only, would eliminate the possibility of a team winning with a field goal on the opening possession of overtime without its opponent getting possession of the ball.

The proposal would have to be approved by at least 24 of the 32 clubs. The owners are scheduled to meet in Orlando, Fla., at the annual league meeting next Monday to Wednesday. Previous attempts to modify the NFL's sudden-death overtime format have failed.

McKay said during Wednesday's conference call that the competition committee also will propose a rule extending the protection given to a defenseless receiver until after a catch is made. Another proposal would end a play whenever a ball carrier loses his helmet.

Under the proposed modification to overtime, which first was reported publicly during the NFL scouting combine last month in Indianapolis, the club that gets the opening possession of overtime could win the game by scoring a touchdown. It that team gets a field goal, the other club would get a possession and would have a chance to win with a touchdown or tie with a field goal. If that team gets a tying field goal, the game would be sudden death from then on.

If neither team scores on its first possession of overtime, the game would proceed on a sudden-death basis.

McKay said the competition committee is making its proposal because of the growing percentage of overtime games being won by the team that wins the coin toss, attributable in part to improved field goal accuracy.

According to McKay, between 1974 and 1993 the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time, and the team that lost the coin toss won the game 46.8 percent of the time. Since 1994, McKay said, the team that won the overtime coin toss won the game 59.8 percent of the time, while the team that lost the coin toss won the game only 38.5 percent of the time.

Since 1994, the team that won the coin toss won the game with a field goal on its opening possession of overtime 26.2 percent of the time, up from 17.9 percent of the time between 1974 and '93.

"Let's look at it statistically," McKay said Wednesday. "It's pretty clear there's been a change.... In the last four or five years, sometimes we have not proposed anything [to change the overtime format] because we've thought, 'Well, if it's not going to get enough votes, let's not propose it.' This year I think we came back with the idea that we need to go back and look at it because the statistics are so compelling and we need to get the discussion going again."

The proposal, if approved, would create a different format for the postseason than what the NFL uses for the regular season. But McKay said the competition committee isn't overly concerned about that because there already is a difference, in that a regular season game can end in a tie after a 15-minute overtime period and a postseason game cannot.

It's unclear if the new rule, if ratified for postseason play, eventually would be enacted for the regular season as well. NFL officials have been reluctant to extend games and create additional risks for players being injured.

On other issues, McKay said the committee will propose, as a safety measure, extending the protection given to a defenseless receiver. Under the current rules, a defender cannot hit a receiver in the head while the receiver is in the process of trying to make a catch. Under the proposal, McKay said, the prohibition against a hit to the head would extend until after the receiver makes a catch, until the receiver has the time to gather himself and become a ball carrier.

Under another safety-related proposal, a dead ball would be declared--and the play would be ended--any time the ball carrier's helmet comes off.

Another proposal would give additional protection to the player snapping the ball on kicking plays.

There is a proposal that a personal foul called on an offensive player at the end of the first half could be enforced at the outset of the second half. One such penalty, on the Dallas Cowboys' Flozell Adams, went essentially unpunished during a game against the New York Giants last season. Adams shoved Giants defensive end Justin Tuck after a field goal attempt and was penalized but the penalty, by rule, wasn't enforced because time had expired in the first half. Adams later was fined $50,000 by the NFL, but Giants Coach Tom Coughlin called publicly for the rule to be changed and said at the time that he discussed the issue with a representative of the league.

Another proposal would make a permanent rule of the temporary change that the league put in place last preseason to address punts hitting the overhanging video boards at the Cowboys' stadium. The play is to be replayed if a ball in play during a game strikes a video board, wire, camera or another object overhanging a field, and the issue of whether a ball strikes such an object overhanging the field is subject to an instant replay review.

There's an instant replay proposal that would call for 10 seconds to be run off the clock in a game's final minute if it's determined on a replay review that the clock should have been running.

Another replay-related proposal would allow time to be put back on the clock if there's a timing mistake on the final play of the game. That rule was put into effect by the commissioner for last season's playoffs but now must be put to a vote of the clubs to become a permanent rule.

There's a proposal that would require teams like the Cowboys and Indianapolis Colts to declare 90 minutes before the kickoff of home games what they're going to do that day about curtains and large windows in their stadiums.

McKay said the competition committee has done nothing at this point to further curtail teams' offseason workouts or limit hitting between players in practices as safety measures.

"So far, as I understand it, we'll go forward the same way we have," McKay said.

However, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell has said he might address such practice-related issues on his own, apart from the deliberations of the competition committee, as part of his ongoing effort to curb the rate and severity of concussions suffered by players.

By Mark Maske  |  March 17, 2010; 11:31 AM ET  | Category:  League Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   StumbleUpon   Technorati  
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