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Colts President Bill Polian said he wasn't surprised that the NFL opted to not alter its overtime policy this offseason. He said what he found surprising was that the NFL players so strongly favored the current "sudden-death" system.

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Colts President Bill Polian Unsurprised with NFL Keeping Overtime Policy
INDIANAPOLIS – Bill Polian said he wasn't much surprised that the NFL will keep its current system of deciding games tied at the end of regulation.

But how adamant NFL players were against change?

That, he said, he didn't quite expect.

Polian, entering his 12th season as the Colts' president, said while the news Wednesday afternoon that the NFL likely won't alter its overtime rules this offseason may have been unexpected to many, he wasn't shocked at all.

"The only surprise was how adamant the players were about not wanting a change," Polian said Thursday.

Polian, a member of the NFL's prestigious Competition Committee, said the committee met with officials from the NFL Players Association and the Player Advisory Council in recent weeks, and the consensus was there was little reason to stray from the current "sudden-death" system.

"They felt no need to change," Polian said, adding, "The players were really persuasive."

Polian long has said publicly that a different overtime rule – for instance, one similar to college football in which each team is assured of at least one possession – would cause a greater risk of injury. He said that was one general argument this offseason against a change.

"That's part of it," Polian said. "We all recognize that we're different than the colleges. I'm not sure the public realizes it, but it's a major issue and we all recognize that."

But Polian said the players involved in the meetings also liked the competitive, on-field aspects of the system.

"I think they all felt it's an exciting part of our game," he said. "One thing that (Tennessee Titans center Kevin Mawae) repeated on a couple of occasions was, 'Our game can end on one play.'

"That's always imant to remember."

The overtime policy has been a high-profile issue publicly in recent months, partly because of the Colts' 23-17 loss to the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game this past January. In that game, the Chargers won the overtime toss, elected to receive and scored a touchdown on the first possession of the extra period.

Since then, there has been speculation about a possible change in the rule, and at the recent NFL Scouting Combine, it was often discussed by personnel officials and coaches. But Rich McKay, the president of the Atlanta Falcons and a Competition Committee co-chair, said Wednesday he doubted it will be a major discussion at the NFL's Owners Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., next week.

According to the NFL, teams that won the opening toss won 63.3 percent of the time, and won 43.4 percent on the first possession.

"I would like to see a game that you would think was 'more balanced'," McKay said, "but I will say that when you talk to the membership and you talk to the players, I think they're comfortable with the fact that they had a chance to play defense, the game is decided in sudden death. There is a sense they like the system and the excitement that the system brings, and there's not a real complaint by them that, 'Oh, well, we're not getting a chance to match.' Because in their feeling, and they're very clear about it, 'Hey, we could have helped ourselves. All we had to do was stop them.'"

Said NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson, "I, myself, was a little surprised at how adamant the players were about not wanting to change the current overtime system and agreeing with Rich's assessment that they say, 'Look, the excitement is there, everyone has got an opportunity to win this thing in regulation.' They were pretty adamant that extended play time, when you're playing 20 games, exposes you to injury risk, and they'd just as soon say, 'Let's battle it out during regulation, and if you can't win it in regulation, you take your chances in overtime. But we like it the way it is.'"

Polian, who will attend the meetings, said the notion that the overtime rule was a reason for the Colts' loss in the playoffs is incorrect.

"Let me make this clear – God Bless San Diego. They did a great job. They won the game," Polian said. "We had a chance to win it in regulation and did not. That's entirely on us. It had nothing to do with overtime. Absolutely nothing. We had 2nd-and-4 (leading 17-14 late in the fourth quarter). We had three downs to make four yards. We made two mistakes and didn't do it. That's on us."

Polian said while the statistics regarding first-possession victories were "a little higher than what we would like," he said he didn't think the statistic was "catastrophic."

"There was discussion about whether or not we ought to move the kickoff line or whether or not we ought to eliminate the kickoff to make it a little more difficult," he said.

Under such a scenario, the team winning the toss might gain possession at the 20-yard line, Polian said. Asked if he liked the idea of eliminating the kickoff, Polian said, "I'm sort of ambivalent about it."

"I understand the kickoff issue," he said. "The people who have great kickoff men want to use it and the people who have great kickoff returnmen want to use it, so I recognize that."

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