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Rule change appears imminent

Published: 2:50PM Saturday January 31, 2009 Source: Reuters

New overtime rules are being considered because too many sudden-death games are being decided by field goals on the first possession, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said on Saturday.

Goodell, in his state of the NFL news conference in Super Bowl week, said there had been a sharp increase in overtime games ending after the opening drive.

"I think it's something the competition committee needs to consider because what we've seen in statistics is historically about 30 percent of the games in overtime (were) decided with a team who wins the coin flip scoring on the first possession," he said.

"That number has risen to about 47 percent and I think that's significant."

Goodell said improved accuracy by the kickers was another factor that shifted the balance in favor of teams winning the coin flip at the start of overtime.

One alternative was to move the kickoff so the receiving team's first drive starts further back.

"If they drive down and kick a long field goal they deserve to win," Goodell said, adding a recommendation on overtime rules should be made by March.

He added the NFL hoped for labor peace with the players union and expressed concern over the economic downturn, saying "we have to cut our costs so we can continue to keep this business successful".

Goodell was pleased with the continued success abroad, noting how fast tickets had been sold for next season's game in London and the response of fans in Toronto to the Buffalo Bills playing a 'home' game there this season.

Mexican comeback

He also indicated the NFL would be returning to Mexico in 2010 for the first time in five years.

"It (Mexico City) was the first city outside the United States to host a regular season game and it was a great, successful one," said Goodell.

"It won't happen this year but we are in negotiations with our partners down in Mexico. I am confident we will get there for 2010."

The 2010 season could be a tumultuous one with no salary cap if team owners and the players union fail to reach a deal on a new collective bargaining agreement.

The salary cap this season was $123 million per club.

"I am optimistic we're going to be able to sit down with the union and reach an agreement that will continue labor peace and allow the players to continue to flourish (and) allow the owners to continue to invest in the game," Goodell said.

No agreement may mean 2011 would bring the league's first labor stoppage since 1987.

Goodell rejected a report released by the union on Friday that said the league remained highly profitable despite the economic downturn and claimed NFL teams enjoyed an average profit of $24.7 million a year.

"It's completely inaccurate," he said. "There's a lot of fiction in that report."