Notes from the NFL Owners Meetings

The chances of either a playoff format or overtime change passing at the NFL Owners Meetings look slim.

"The history of our league tells us that rules that have been in place this long take two or three years before they get changed,'' said Competition committee co-chairmen Rich McKay, general manager of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. "They don't tend to happen in the first year they're voted upon. We react to trends, but we haven't been the quickest because we want to make sure it's a trend.''

The debate to add another team to each conference's postseason was upstaged when Kansas City Chiefs owner Lamar Hunt talked of abolishing the playoff bye system and having 16 teams, half of the league, enter the NFL's second season.

The overtime debate may be a smoother ride considering the league is coming off a record 25 overtime games last season. Currently, the team that wins the overtime coin flip and takes the ball is victorious more than 60 percdnt of the time.

In 2002, 15 games were won by the team that won the coin toss, including nine on the first possession. One proposal to change overtime would ensure both teams receive at least one possession in overtime, and the league's 32 owners will vote on it by midweek.

The league's current overtime format was introduced in 1974, after 78 games ended in draws over a 10-year period.

Other topics of discussion at the meetings:

*Proposals to expand the playoff field from six to seven teams in each conference.
*A proposed change in the instant-replay challenge system.
*A review of how the minority-hiring policy is working.
*An expected extension of the G-3 loan program, under which the league loans $150 million for stadium construction.

Abundance of picks
The Bears received three compensatory picks for the loss of Tony Parrish, James Allen and Walt Harris to free agency. The additional choices will come at the end of the fifth, sixth and seventh rounds.

The Bears now have a total of 11 selections in the April 26-27 draft. Chicago has one selection in each of the first four rounds with two picks in rounds five and seven and three in the sixth round.

With a surplus of draft choices GM Jerry Angelo will have the ability to move up to select a targeted player.

NFL Europe a go
The owners voted to continue NFL Europe despite the war in Iraq. "We're an American business in Europe," Tagliabue said. "Like other American businesses, we have to continue on."

Kickoff Weekend games
The NFL announced four games of its 2003 Kickoff Weekend on Sept. 7-8, including prime-time rematches of both of last season's conference championship games.

The Super Bowl champion Tampa Bay Buccaneers will open Sept. 8 on ABC's Monday Night Football (9 p.m. ET) against the Eagles in Philadelphia's new Lincoln Financial Field, a rematch of the NFC Championship Game.

The Sunday night, Sept. 7, prime-time game (8:30 p.m. ET) on ESPN will send the Oakland Raiders to the Tennessee Titans in a rematch of last season's AFC title game.

Earlier that day, the FOX national doubleheader game (4:15 p.m. ET) will be Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons at the Dallas Cowboys in the debut of Bill Parcells as the Cowboys' head coach.

CBS, which carries U.S. Open tennis that Sunday in the late time slot, will carry seven early regional games led by a meeting between two more 2002 playoff teams -- Indianapolis at Cleveland.

The announcement of the four games was made by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue in his opening remarks to club owners, executives, and head coaches at the NFL Meeting in Phoenix, Ariz.

The NFL announced on March 6 that the regular season would kick off in prime time on Thursday night, Sept. 4, on ABC with the New York Jets at the Washington Redskins.

The rest of the 2003 regular-season schedule will be announced at a later date.

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