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Players want reform for OT format

Posted: Thursday January 23, 2003 9:27 PM

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SAN DIEGO (AP) -- NFL players are backing a change in the rules that would allow both teams to get the ball in overtime.

Gene Upshaw, executive director of the NFL Players Association, said Thursday that the union will recommend the change to the league's competition committee. If this group approves a new rule, owners would vote on it at their meeting in Phoenix in March.

To pass, 24 of the 32 teams would have to OK it.

"If you look at the games this year, you see how much closer they're getting," Upshaw said. "It only stands to reason that if you get into overtime, you should have a fair chance to win."

There were a record 25 overtimes in the NFL in the regular season, four more than the previous high set in 1991. In the playoffs, Tennessee beat Pittsburgh 34-31 in overtime, winning the coin toss and kicking a field goal without the Steelers ever getting the ball.

Nine regular-season games, or 36 percent, also were won by the team that got the ball first and scored without the other team getting possession. In one game, Detroit coach Marty Mornhinweg elected to take the wind after the Lions won the toss and Chicago kicked the winning field goal on its first possession.

Since overtime was instituted in 1974, 28 percent of the teams getting the ball first have scored on their first possession.

The higher percentage combined with the higher number of overtime games has led to increased demand for a change in the rules. The union is the first major group to come out for the change.

Upshaw said the union is not in favor of the college rule, which gives each team the ball at the opponent's 25-yard line at least once. If the score remains tied after one overtime the same process is used until someone wins.

Recently, Ohio State needed two overtimes to beat Miami in the Fiesta Bowl to win the college national championship.

"I'd like to see the ball kicked off," Upshaw said. "There are some details we would want to work out, like onside kicks and things like that. But we think it's important to give each team a fair chance."

Upshaw also said at the union's annual news conference that its diversity committee is working with the league to get more minorities into front offices.

"We're getting a lot more minority coaches from the playing ranks because that's Xs and Os and players know that," he said. "But it's harder to get players with skills that would translate to the front office."


 
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