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Changes to OT likely to be nixed

Owners rarely approve rules quickly, but many players want a better way to decide ties.

By RICK STROUD, Times Staff Writer

© St. Petersburg Times, published March 23, 2003

Of all the decisions coaches make during an NFL game, only one seems to determine the outcome in overtime:

Heads or tails.

According to the league's competition committee, a trend has developed since 1994: nearly 60 percent of teams that won the coin toss won the game. Since 1997, 37.5 percent of the teams that won the coin toss won on their first possession.

That's why NFL owners will consider changing the overtime system at their annual spring meetings that begin today in Phoenix. A proposal for a two-possession rule will be hotly debated.

But it likely will be difficult to get the needed 24 votes among the 32 teams to change the overtime system.

"It's going to be close," said Bucs general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee that remains split on the issue. "The history of the league tells us that rules that have been in place this long, it takes two to three years before they get changed. They don't tend to happen the first year something is voted upon."

Last season the NFL had a record 25 overtime games, with 10 decided on the first possession.

The competition committee discovered the biggest reason for the trend is the kicking game, McKay said. Since kickoffs have been moved back to the 30-yard line and kickers no longer are able to doctor the football, kickoffs are shorter, granting better position to the receiving team.

Another impact of changing the overtime format is there likely would be more ties and games would run longer.

"I guess I have a problem when a team says we kicked off, therefore we didn't have a chance to win," Colts coach and former Bucs coach Tony Dungy said. "But however many plays you're on defense, you had a chance to win the game. You can cause a fumble, you can intercept a ball and run it in. Tackle a punter in the end zone, which happened this year. Just to say our offense didn't have the ball so we didn't have a chance to win, I have a problem with that theory."

The NFL will not consider a system similar to what is used in college, where each team receives the ball at the opponent's 20-yard line.

"That's a different game," McKay said. "It's an exciting game, but it's a different game. It's more to the shootout in soccer, if you will."

Of the games decided in overtime last season, none was as important as Tennessee's 34-31 victory over Pittsburgh of the AFC division playoff game. The Titans won the coin toss and drove 61 yards to set up Joe Nedney's 26-yard field goal 2:15 in.

Many players and their union are eager for change.

"Right now I don't think it's fair the way it is," 49ers quarterback Jeff Garcia said. "Right now if you win the toss, more than likely you're going to win the game. I don't think it's fair to battle for 60 minutes and end regulation in a tie and all of a sudden it comes down to one possession."

Several other topics will be discussed during the three-day meeting.

Minority hiring of coaches and top executives is on the agenda in three sessions. The league's diversity committee could rule on whether any penalty should be imposed on the Lions, who failed to meet new guidelines of interviewing a minority candidate before they hired former 49ers coach Steve Mariucci. Owners also will consider a proposal to expand the playoffs by one team in each conference.

Dilfer's son in critical condition with virus

KIRKLAND, Wash. -- Trevin Dilfer, the 5-year-old son of Seahawks quarterback and former Buc Trent Dilfer, was in critical condition after a virus attacked his heart last week.

In a statement released by the team, the family said Trevin is "bravely battling a tough and uncertain illness." The statement did not say where he was hospitalized or give further details.

"The Dilfers give thanks for the love of so many, and ask that you continue keeping Trevin, his family and many caregivers in your prayers," Trent and his wife, Cassandra, wrote. The couple has three other children.

CHIEFS: Todd Collins signed a three-year, $3-million contract to remain Trent Green's backup. Collins, who has thrown 10 passes in five seasons, received no offers to become a starter elsewhere, the Kansas City Star reported.

PATRIOTS: Fred McCrary, who three weeks ago was released by the Chargers, signed a two-year contract, the Naples Daily News reported. The 30-year-old fullback said the deal was worth a little more than $750,000.

-- Information from other news organizations was used in this report.

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