NFL holds the line on OT


PHOENIX - In opposing the overtime proposal, the Ravens weren't in the majority, but they still got their way.

The new overtime plan, which would give each team at least one possession, was rejected yesterday as the annual NFL owners' meetings concluded. The proposal for a one-year trial received support from more than half of the league - 17 votes from the 32 teams - yet fell seven short of the 24 needed to pass it.

The Ravens were one of the leading proponents to keep the current sudden-death system. Minority owner Steve Bisciotti, who will take control of the team next year, spoke on the Ravens' behalf at yesterday's executive meeting and said there wasn't a persuasive reason to change.

Although 10 of last year's league-record 25 overtime games were won by a team on its opening drive, the Ravens contend it's up to the defense to stop the other team and earn equal possessions in the extra period. The Ravens also expressed concern that longer overtimes could lead to more injuries and more ties.

"I'm not sure statistically that the trend is compelling enough to change it," Ravens president David Modell said, "and certainly not to change it to something that may need to be changed again."

Said general manager Ozzie Newsome, who serves on the league's competition committee: "Our reasons were enough for me to say let's leave it where it is until we find something better. I don't think the two-possession opportunities was good enough for me."

Tennessee Titans coach Jeff Fisher, whose team voted in favor of the proposal, said that the change wouldn't be a radical one. He estimated that 70 percent of overtime games usually result in one possession for each team, but the new rule would guarantee equal opportunity.

"Basically, what everybody is saying is this is the system that works in their eyes," Fisher said. "Obviously, there wasn't enough sentiment and we'll move on. I thought it was one worthy of discussion. [But] I didn't see a rule like this passing the first time around."

Competition committee chairman Rich McKay, however, said he doesn't expect overtime to be an annual issue at the owners' meetings.

"There was probably more made of it than it should have been," McKay said. "This rule proposal affected 10 out of 256 games last year. I don't think this is one of those rules that will continue to haunt us."

Meanwhile, the owners tabled a proposal to expand the playoffs from 12 to 14 teams until the NFL's May meeting.

League officials said they need more time to study the ramifications for both competition and television coverage involved in adding two wild-card teams. The proposal has been long considered a long shot to get approved, but it got more support than either McKay or commissioner Paul Tagliabue expected.

Like the overtime issue, the Ravens remain traditionalists and would have voted against widening the playoff field.

"We've very much looking forward to being in the playoffs again, but we would prefer to be one of 12 currently rather than 14," Modell said. "If we let a whole bunch of additional teams into the playoffs, it's like we're having another week of the regular season. Then, what's so special about it?"

The only rule change approved yesterday involved onside kicks in the final five minutes of games.

Previously, if a ball went out of bounds before going 10 yards downfield, the kicking team was penalized, but had a chance to kick again from five yards back. Although that rewarded a team for an illegal play, coaches wanted to keep it. The change finally passed when it was amended to cover an onside kick only in the final five minutes.

NOTES: The agent for Charlie Clemons said the Ravens have not contacted him about the free-agent linebacker. The Ravens have indicated they want to add a pass rusher before next month's NFL draft. ... Newsome, coach Brian Billick, player personnel director Phil Savage and offensive coordinator Matt Cavanaugh will attend a private workout with University of California quarterback Kyle Boller today. The Ravens currently have the 10th overall pick in the draft and are considering whether to select Boller. ... Down the road from the owners' meetings, Savage was at yesterday's open workout for Arizona State defensive end Terrell Suggs, who is projected to be a top-five pick.

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