STAYING THE SAME

The NFL won't likely change its overtime policy this offseason, NFL Competition Committee Co-Chairman Rich McKay said Tuesday. The Colts' loss to the San Diego Chargers in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game this past season had drawn the attention of media and fans to the rule.

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NFL's Overtime Policy Unlikely to Change, Competition Committee Co-Chair Rich McKay Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL's overtime policy won't likely be changing. Not this offseason, anyway.

Rich McKay, the Atlanta Falcons' President and a co-chair of the NFL's Competition Committee, said he doesn't expect the NFL's overtime rule to be a major issue at the NFL Owners Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., next week. McKay made the announcement Tuesday during a conference call with NFL media.

McKay said the competition committee will recommend several rules changes and modifications next week.

But he said a change in overtime likely won't be among them.

"I don't expect there to be that much discussion about the topic," McKay said.

McKay said while the Competition Committee discussed the situation "for more hours than we would care to talk about," there was "great supfor the current system."

McKay said after discussion with the NFL Players Association and the NFLPA's Players Advisory Council, "we've really come to the conclusion that there's nothing we're in a position to propose at this time.

"No member clubs proposed a change, and there was no unanimity within the committee," McKay said.

"We think overtime still achieves its major goal in that it breaks ties. We think it achieves the second goal, which is that it's extremely exciting.

"There are some stats that concern some of us, but there's just not enough support at this time to change it."

The Colts lost at San Diego, 23-17, in an AFC Wild Card Playoff game at Qualcomm Stadium in January when the Chargers received the overtime kickoff and scored on the game's first possession. Then-Colts Head Coach Tony Dungy said the following day he favored the overtime format.

McKay, who said after committee meetings in late February in Indianapolis and early March in Naples, Fla., he believes the game "overall is in good shape," said the committee will make several proposals to league ownership, primarily in the area of player safety. The safety proposals are as follows:

• Eliminate bunch formation on kickoffs. "We are proposing we eliminate that formation to require a balanced formation and require certain people outside the hashmarks and certain people outside the numbers," McKay said.

• Eliminate the three- or four-man wedge on kickoff returns. "We would propose that wedge not be more than two people," McKay said. "We just are not comfortable that that creates a situation where we like the matchups. Plenty of teams have done it with two-man wedges. Some teams do it without a wedge, so it's not as though we will adversely affect kickoffs, but we will try to eliminate that one formation."

• Eliminate/penalize helmet-to-helmet contact that occurs on a blindside block. "We have receivers, tight ends and offensive linemen coming back to the line of scrimmage and as they head back to the line of scrimmage, they're allowed to block a defender anywhere as long as they don't block in the back," McKay said. "We're trying to say, 'You cannot block that defender in the head.' For safety purposes, we think that's a situation we just don't want to occur."

• Mandate there be no initial contact by a defender to the head area of a defenseless receiver. McKay said this would expand the current rule that prevents defenders from striking a defenseless receiver – a receiver in the air – with the helmet. "There have been an awful lot of hits in the last couple of years that have been legal, but have been very tough on receivers," McKay said. "We're trying to expand that protection."

McKay said among several other recommendations by the committee is to eliminate the automatic re-kick on a second onside kick.

"There aren't any major rules proposals changing the game," McKay said. "The focus is on player safety, and we think the game otherwise is in very good shape."

NFL spokesman Greg Aiello also said the NFL expects to make several announcements, including the Kickoff Weekend schedule: the Thursday night game and other nationally-televised games that weekend. The league also could announce other nationally-televised games later in the season, Aiello said.

Also, the NFL also will celebrate the 50th anniversary of the American Football League, Aiello said. The AFL, founded in 1960, merged with the NFL in 1970.

Aiello said the owners also will discuss the potential for a restructured season. The concept, Aiello said, has quite a bit of support, "especially among fans." NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Ray Anderson said the restructuring could involve adding a 17th regular-season game.

"There are various logistical and administrative issues that are still being analyzed, but there will be quite a bit of focus on this initiative next week," Aiello said.

Aiello said the topic will not come to a vote next week, and that the owners also will discuss the impact of the economy and the upcoming negotiations with players on Collective Bargaining Agreement.

McKay said the committee also is proposing a change in the NFL's system for deciding draft order. Under the current system, the NFL ranks the first 30 drafting teams based on regular-season record. Under the proposed system, teams 21-30 would be ranked based on playoff results.

Also, a proposal to seed the playoffs based on regular-season records rather than giving division champions an automatic first-round bye and home playoff game will be discussed, McKay said.

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