PALM BEACH, Fla. – There's virtually no chance NFL owners will be competing during their meetings this week with the stream of big news made by trades and in free agency thus far this year.
Nor are they likely to try.
The headlines generated by the movement of star players show Russell Wilson in Denver now, Matt Ryan in Indianapolis, Khalil Mack in Los Angeles with the Chargers, Davante Adams in Las Vegas and Tyreek Hill in Miami. And so many more major moves.
The 32 team owners will deal with some significant issues, as they always do. Two proposals to change overtime rules are particularly intriguing.
Tennessee has recommended that both teams possess the ball in overtime unless the team receiving the kickoff scores a touchdown and a 2-point conversion. That would end the game.
Indianapolis and Philadelphia have proposed that both teams must have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. The powerful competition committee, chaired by Falcons President Rich McKay, has brought both of those suggestions to ownership for consideration and a vote this week.
"One thing we’ve tried to do is make sure overtime is designed to be traditional football," McKay says, "and that means we’re going to have special teams, we’re going to have field position, we’re going to have the ability to play defense. All those things are elements. We’ve never tried as a committee to get ourselves in any type of gimmick in the football game. We try to play traditional football.
“But the progression of offense and how efficient offenses are, specifically in the postseason where in 12 overtime games, the coin-toss winning teams won 10 times and seven of those on the first drive, offenses progress a lot. So that’s why there’s a discussion of a rules modification.”
Fans who believe the current setup is unfair — teams winning the coin toss can score a touchdown and end the game before the opponent gets an opportunity on offense — should be encouraged that the NFL is looking into this. Except for this:
“I think with my history on this rule, it tells me that 24 votes are not easy to get,” McKay says of the required three-quarters of positive votes from the owners to cause a change. “But I do think that statistics absolutely warrant an examination of whether our overtime rules need to be further modified.”
Giants owner John Mara, also a member of the competition committee, agreed that getting the 24 votes would be difficult. He also indicated a change in the postseason setup for overtime was something he'd favor.
A new stadium for the Buffalo Bills, to be constructed in the parking lot of the current venue in suburban Orchard Park, New York, will be examined. New York state is committing millions of dollars toward the project, and the owners are expected to OK a $200 million loan to the Bills.
While no alterations to punting rules have been proposed, a deep examination of them is being conducted. Data show that punt plays have become a heavier source of injuries, though the league is not eager to rush into any changes just yet.
“Spent a lot of time on that, both on rules, potential changes to the rule, as well as who the athletes are that are getting injured and what training we’re doing with special teams players, and see if there are tweaks (needed),” says Jeff Miller, the league executive vice president. “It’s not just a rules issue, it’s certainly a conditioning issue and one that we spend a great deal of time with the competition committee on with regard to looking for solutions and taking research back. That’s where we stand at this stage on that, a lot more work to be done and probably an ongoing conversation over the next year.”
Commissioner Roger Goodell is certain to face questions about a potential suspension for quarterback Deshaun Watson, now with the Browns. Watson faced criminal charges of sexual misconduct in Texas, but two grand juries declined to indict him. Watson still faces 22 civil lawsuits from massage therapists who have accused Watson of harassing or assaulting them during sessions.
The lawsuit filed by former Dolphins head coach Brian Flores, now an assistant with the Steelers, also is likely to be a topic of conversation among the owners. Flores filed his lawsuit against the NFL, Dolphins, New York Giants and Denver Broncos following his dismissal by Miami in January, citing racist hiring practices.
Flores' suit claims the Giants already had hired their new head coach, Brian Daboll, even though they were bringing him in for an interview.
“It's false,” Mara said Sunday, adding that the hiring of Daboll was not based on race, and that the team owner would sit for a deposition if sought. “I think the truth will come out. The allegations are false.”
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