While changes in the NFL's personal conduct policy are likely to take center stage at the owners meetings in Phoenix next week, there will be a number of on-field issues considered.
Atlanta Falcons president Rich McKay, who is a co-chairman of the league's competition committee, said that a series of subtle changes will be considered.
The most significant may be a minor alteration to how overtime games are run. With the winner of the coin flip for possession in overtime being victorious approximately 62 percent of the time last season, the league is considering a motion that may help alter any field-position issues.
McKay said that owners will discuss a proposal that will move the kickoff from the 30-yard line in regulation to the 35 in overtime. The hope is that such a minor change will alter field position enough to even the results.
McKay said the proposed change came after the committee examined results of games from 1984 to 1993, when the kickoff was from the 35. In those games, the team that won the coin flip won only 48.6 percent.
Among the other proposed changes:
- The owners will vote on whether to make instant replay a permanent rule. There are two years remaining on the current rule and McKay said the league is satisfied with the current format.
- The league will consider a 5-yard penalty on a player who spikes the ball in the field of play. End zone spikes after touchdowns or spiking the ball after going out of bounds would still be allowed. The penalty would also not take away from a possible first down. Rather, a team would get the result of the play first, then have the five yards walked off and start with a fresh first-and-10 or first-and-goal situation. The goal of the penalty is to improve sportsmanship, McKay said.
- The league will decide on whether to alter the weekly injury report. Rather than have a detailed report that appears on Wednesday and Thursday indicating whether a player is probable, questionable, doubtful or out, teams will simply report if players participated in practice. A standard injury report would be issued Friday. McKay said the hope of the new reporting policy is to keep coaches from being put in situations where they were hurting their "integrity" in discussing the injury report.
- McKay said the committee will move the umpire in the officiating crew in NFL Europe games to the offensive side of the ball rather than the defense. McKay said the league will study that change for possible implementation in the league someday.
There are also expected to be presentations from several teams about changes. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are proposing that penalties be included in the instant replay process. The Chicago Bears are asking for an increase in the active roster for game day from 45 to 47 players. Finally, the San Francisco 49ers are proposing that there be a revised pass interference call which would have a 15-yard penalty for a "minor" violation and a full-yardage penalty for a "major" violation.
- Rich McKay