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NFL owners change overtime rule for regular-season games

The new rule would allow both teams possession of the ball if the team that won the coin toss scores a field goal on its first overtime possession. A touchdown on a opening overtime possession would still result in a sudden-death victory.

March 28, 2012|By Sam Farmer
  • New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford celebrates the Giants' overtime victory over San Francisco in the NFC Championship game in January.
New York Giants punter Steve Weatherford celebrates the Giants'… (Thearon W. Henderson / Getty…)

PALM BEACH, Fla. — NFL owners on Wednesday voted to expand the playoff overtime rules to the regular season, increasing the likelihood that both teams will get to touch the ball in the extra period.

The rule means that if a team scores a field goal on the first possession of overtime, the opposing team will get a possession. A touchdown on the first overtime possession will still result in sudden-death victory.

That was one of five rule proposals that passed on the final day of the annual league meetings at the Breakers hotel.

The other rules proposals adopted:

•A loss-of-down penalty will be added for illegally kicking a loose ball.

•Too many men on the field will now be a dead-ball foul.

•The recipient of a crack-back block will now be considered a defenseless player, meaning helmet-to-helmet hits on him are not allowed.

•Replay officials will now have the option to review turnovers. Last season they began reviewing every scoring play.

The two proposals that did not pass were a change in instant replay to hand the decision from the referee to the replay assistant in the booth, and a plan to extend the rule against horse-collar tackles that would have made them illegal when taking down a quarterback in the pocket.

Of the horse-collar decision, Rich McKay, chairman of the competition committee, said the owners "didn't think this can impact on player safety."

McKay said: "The rule was developed for an open-field tackle where we felt like a defender had a chance with an alternative to do something else, and we felt like the injury risk was going to occur because the defender was able to actually use the runner's momentum against himself and swing and fall on the back of his legs. We never thought that necessarily applied in the pocket."

Rolling the dice

The NFL has always gone to great lengths to distance itself from gambling. Any type of game-fixing scandal could do irreparable harm to the league.

With that in mind, the league is weighing the possibility of allowing casino advertisements at stadiums, and owners are expected to make a decision in the next few weeks on whether to allow them.

"If you look at us versus other leagues, we are not changing our position on sports gambling and betting against team sports," Commissioner Roger Goodell said. "That is something we will continue to take a very strong position on. We have evolved very slowly over this, and in fact have kept a real distance between gambling and the NFL. We intend to keep doing that. But we have frequently modified that over the years. We do it on a regular basis, and we are doing it now. "

Staying put

The league seems to have cooled to the idea of expanding the regular season, at least for a while. Goodell said there hasn't been much discussion lately about going to 18 games.

"I have said on several occasions that I think we are going to have to go through this off-season cycle and try to see what the negotiated off-season cycle is like," he said, "the impact it has on the game, the impact it has on the individual players, and then we'll sit down and probably will be discussing it later this year or early next year."

Super Bowl L

The league will take applications for the 50th Super Bowl in October and with the intention of picking a site by May 2013. There has been speculation that the league would consider Los Angeles to play host to Super Bowl L as it was the site of the first one.

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