Notebook: Rules Change For OT

The old rules didn't impact any of the Packers' five overtime playoff games; that and much, much more from a busy Wednesday as the team kicked off preparations for Sunday's playoff game at Philadelphia.

With this year's playoffs, the NFL debuts new overtime rules.

In last year's NFC championship game, the New Orleans Saints won the toss, kicked a field goal and celebrated their victory over the Minnesota Vikings.

Under that scenario this year, the Vikings would have gotten a shot with the ball.

The Green Bay Packers have played five overtime games in their postseason history, with the Packers going 3-2. Not once did the team that won the coin toss win the game on its first possession. Instead, the team that won the toss lost the game on its first possession twice. On Jan. 4, 2004, Matt Hasselbeck infamously said the Seahawks would take the ball and score, only to throw a pick-six to Al Harris. And last year, the Packers won the toss but lost on Aaron Rodgers' overtime fumble and resulting touchdown return.

Here's how the new rules work:

— If Team A wins the toss and scores a touchdown, the game is over.

— If Team A wins the toss and scores a field goal, Team B will get a chance with the ball. If Team B scores a touchdown, the game is over. If Team B kicks a field goal, then standard sudden-death rules apply.

"It's another situation of the game that you prepare for, and now that they have changed the rules, there are other variables that you look at," Packers coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "Mike Eayrs is our director of research and development. We have had conversations after the rule change came out. Mike and I met on it again, I want to say it was Monday night or Tuesday, and it's something that really you watch how the game goes. There will be factors during the game, how the game is being played at that particular time will obviously affect the way you decide to approach overtime now with the rule change. We have all of the variables in place and it will be part of our game-management discussion on Friday, how we anticipate going into the game. We'll see how the game goes and make the call."

The big strategy will come with winning the coin toss. In college, in which both teams start with the ball at the opponent's 25-yard line, teams prefer to play defense first. That way, the team that wins the flip knows whether it needs to score a field goal or a touchdown when it has the ball.

"I think it makes (for) a big decision," Rodgers said. "In the past, you get into field-goal range and you could kick it on first, second or third down. Now I think you have to go for the touchdown if you get into that situation."

The rules change applies only to the playoffs, with standard sudden-death rules for the regular season. From 2000 through 2009, both teams got the ball in 61 percent of overtime games. This year, interestingly, there were 19 overtime games during the regular season. In 17 of them, both teams had at least one possession.

Job security

Inside linebacker Desmond Bishop was certain that his career would work out, whether it was with the Packers or somewhere else via free agency at the end of this season.

On Saturday, Bishop signed a four-year contract extension worth $19 million. A career backup, Bishop seemed destined for a fourth consecutive season on the bench but thrived upon jumping in the lineup to replace injured Nick Barnett.

"I think I was struggling (with not playing on defense) pretty much my whole career here," Bishop said. "I was eager to play, get some reps and get out there and help contribute to the team. Things work in mysterious ways. I'm just fortunate. ... Somebody once said, if you do something you love, you'd do it for free. I'd play this for free."

In 12 starts, Bishop finished with 121 tackles, including six games of double-digits stops.

"Desmond has had an outstanding year with his opportunity at linebacker," McCarthy said. "He was always one of our best performers on special teams. He has earned this contract. I'm very, very proud of him personally, and you just can't have enough good players. It's always a positive when the organization and a player can come to an agreement on a contract. I'm very, very happy for Desmond personally."

Packers injury report

Did not participate: S Atari Bigby (groin); LB Frank Zombo (knee). Limited participation: T Chad Clifton (knees); S Nick Collins (ribs); FB Korey Hall (knee); DE Cullen Jenkins (calf); LB Clay Matthews (shin). Full participation: DE Ryan Pickett (ankle); CB Charles Woodson (toe).

Jenkins said he's "really encouraged" about playing after missing the last four games.

"Obviously, if I do dress, we still have to be smart about it." he said. "I don't want to try to overdo anything and end up hurting it again. They'll probably have some type of game plan or some type of number in mind or situations that they want to put me in or get me out of. We'll just have to see how it goes."

Eagles injury report

Did not participate: LB Stewart Bradley (elbow); G Max Jean-Giles (ankle). Limited participation: G Todd Herremans (calf). Full participation: G Nick Cole (knee); TE Clay Harbor (abdomen); T Winston Justice (knee); DT Trevor Laws (shoulder); CB Asante Samuel (knee); QB Michael Vick (quad).

In a conference call with Packers beat reporters, Vick said he didn't even feel the knee that was injured against Minnesota two weeks ago. "I'm back and I'm healthy and I'm strong and ready to go."

During his conference call, Eagles coach Andy Reid was asked if Bradley, the starting middle linebacker, would play. "Oh, absolutely. For the Green Bay Packers, he'll be ready, absolutely. No, listen, he's not practicing today so we'll see how he does. It's a day-to-day thing here."

Four-point stance

— Not only was Erik Walden named defensive player of the week on Wednesday, but the NFL gave him a third sack (at the expense of Howard Green).

— Long-snapper Brett Goode was given a two-year extension worth about $1.6 million, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Goode would have been a restricted free agent at season's end. He's had two consecutive years of flawless snapping, and received a game ball on Sunday, McCarthy said on Monday.

— Matthews is a finalist for NFL Alumni Player of the Year, and Matthews, Rodgers, Greg Jennings and Josh Sitton are finalists at their positions. Former NFL players will vote for the winners among three finalists at nine position groups, Coach of the Year and Player of the Year. Finalists were chosen by legendary Bill Parcells.

— McCarthy's message this week: "Don't believe the hype about yourself and don't believe the hype about your opponent. Just stay true to our own values, stay true to our brand of football. We have just gone through a 16-game season. We are the 2010 Packers. We have a brand of football that we are very confident in, very comfortable with, and that's what we're taking to Philadelphia. I don't want anybody to act differently, don't want anybody to look differently. I want everybody to be the best that they can be being themselves, and that's for every player, every unit, every phase of our football team."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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