What's On Tap for the Owner's Meetings?

This year's Owner's Meetings begin on Monday in Dana Point, California. Recently, Falcons president Rich McKay joined Ray Anderson and Greg Aiello in a conference call with the NFL media to discuss what would be on this year's agenda.

GREG AIELLO:  Now Rich McKay will comment on the overall state of the game and review the Competition Committee agenda and then he'll take your questions along with Ray Anderson.

            RICH McKAY:  I think we'll just start with the numbers.  The numbers this year are very good.  First we've got scoring, which is at 44.06 per game, the ninth highest of all time and the highest we've had since 1970.  We look at yards per game with 654 and a half yards per game.  That's the eighth highest of all time.  The time of game is at 3:02:12, which for us is really a low number.  That's a credit to the officiating crews for moving the game along and keeping the pace of game, and to our players because we've really done a good job of going -- we were at three hours and seven minutes in '02 and we're down to 3:02, which is a better time for us.

            We've got other statistics that are high.  We've got field goals at 84.5 percent success rate, which is the highest ever, and so obviously the kicking ball issue that we had in the past I think has been solved as the field goal kickers are kicking at a rate we've not seen before.  So our game overall is in good shape.

            We begin the Competition Committee meetings really by putting a survey out, all the teams give us their suggestions and their critiques of the year.  We then take all the fan suggestions and media suggestions we get.  We meet in Indianapolis with the Players Advisory Council, with the Competition Committee, a joint meeting this year.  We got a lot of input with what our focus is going to be specifically this year, which is player safety, and then we meet in Naples.

            We're doing one of the rules proposals this year.  I think we might only have seven total and some of them are really kind of administrative, but we do have some that are really important to us and they focus on player safety.  They come out of the meeting we had with the Players' Association and with the players themselves.  The first one that we'd ask for a vote upon would eliminate the bunch formation on kickoffs.  We've got a rule in place that we put in a number of years ago that balanced kickoffs.  We said four players had to line up on each side of the kicker, and the reason was we didn't like the overload that was occurring on onside kicks and the situation that it might create a mismatch.  Well, special teams coaches stay up all night trying to find ways to get onside kicks and to get kicks successfully completed and they came up with a formation that included the bunching.  That basically put a lot of people in the box with respect to the kickoff, so we're proposing that we eliminate that formation.  We require a balanced formation, we require certain people outside the hash mark and certain people outside the numbers.  So that would be rule proposal 1.

            Rule proposal 2 would eliminate the three or more man wedge on kickoff returns.  You've seen plays where you'll see four people line up together, form a wedge and begin the kickoff return.  We would propose that that wedge cannot be more than two people going forward.  We just are not comfortable that that creates a situation that we like the matchup.  So we'll try to put this rule in place.  Plenty of teams that don't have two-man wedges, some teams don't have a wedge at all, so it's not like we think we will adversely affect kickoffs, but we will try to eliminate that one formation if you will.

            GREG AIELLO:  That's a safety issue?

            RICH McKAY:  All are safety issues.  The next one is trying to eliminate or penalize any helmet to helmet that occurs in a blind side block.  What we've got is people that are downfield, receivers or tight ends or even offensive linemen, and they're coming back to the line of scrimmage. And as they said, back to the line of scrimmage, they're allowed to block as long as they don't block from the back.  They're allowed to block a defender anywhere and we're trying to protect that defender and say you cannot block that defender in the head.  Just for safety purposes we think that's a situation we just don't want to occur.  We'd rather have the blocker attempt the block in the chest area, anywhere but in the head, so that would be proposal No. 3, again, just focused on player safety.

            And the last rule proposal is No. 4.  In 1995 we passed a rule that allowed there to be protection for the defenseless receiver when the defenseless receiver was in the air.  What we said was you can't hit that receiver helmet to helmet.  We're going to this year propose to expand that protection and include that there can be no initial contact to the head area of the defenseless receiver.  What that basically means is you cannot hit that receiver with your forearm or with your shoulder as that receiver has yet to catch the ball. In other words, have two feet on the ground with possession of the ball.  So we're just trying to expand that protection.  There's been an awful lot of hits in the last couple of years that have been legal but have been very tough on receivers, and we're trying to expand that protection for that player.

            A few points of emphasis that deal with player protection and player safety.  Those include the horse collar tackle, which we again want to emphasize this year because the number of calls are up, and low hits on quarterbacks.  So those will be our safety rules per proposals.

            We've got a couple other rules.  I'll talk about one of them, which is instant replay, in which we would seek to expand reviewable plays.  The one place we'd seek to expand it is the ruling of an incomplete pass where there is a recovery of a fumble.  We've had some high profile plays this year. We think we would propose that would be reviewable and think that is a play in which people play right through the fumble recovery, so we would like to treat it like down by contact.

            We'd also add on another category which would be reviewable, which is a loose ball being out of bounds when it's recovered on the field of play.  We had a couple of kick plays where the ball landed right by the sidelines.  The ruling was out of bounds but it was recovered.  We weren't able to review those plays.  We'd add a category that would allow that to be reviewed.  That would be proposal No. 6.

            Play rule proposal No. 7 is simply a proposal that would seek to eliminate the automatic re-kick on an onsides kick that would seem to be illegal.  We put in a rule a couple years ago that disallows that in the last five minutes.  We're now trying to extend that to the whole game.  If you're trying to try a surprise onsides kick and it was unsuccessful, then that team would be entitled to, if they did recover, take the ball to where they did recover.

            There are not any major rules proposals changing the game.  We think the focus is on player safety and we think the game otherwise is in very good shape with respect to the numbers and with respect to the quality of the game.

            One topic that I thought I'd at least bring up because I know we talked about it for more hours than what we would care to talk about is overtime.  That's drawing a lot of attention from the media, and of course it's been brought up a lot by our fans.  In talking to the Players Association and the Players Advisory Council and in looking at the Competition Committee survey from the member clubs, we've come to the conclusion that there's nothing we're in a position to propose at this time. No club proposed a change. There's no unanimity within the clubs as to a change.  I think overtime still achieves its major goal, which is it breaks ties.

            We think it achieves a second goal, which is it is extremely exciting.  There are some statistics that concern some of us.  By the same token I think there's not enough support at this time to change it, and I would say when you talk to the players and when you talk to our membership, there's great support for our current system.

            Our current system does resolve ties.  This year is the first time we had a tie probably in about five years, and our system works well from an excitement standpoint.  There are some statistics that I say otherwise concern some of us, but at this time there will be nothing proposed and I don't expect there to be much discussion about the topic, other than I'm sure we'll have a little open discussion on any other potential that people might have for that topic of overtime.

            Otherwise I think we do have a bylaw proposal that we're proposing, and that is a change in the draft order.  It would not affect obviously this year's draft; it would affect next year's draft.  It's bylaw proposal No. 4.  We would propose that the draft order be based on positions 1 through 20 being determined the same way they are - tie, same tie breakers that there are today but that all players be seeded from positions 21 to 32.  That's not currently the way we do it.  We currently do it on regular season record as opposed to playoff results except for Super Bowl teams, which would always be in position 31 and 32.  We would now propose that positions 21 through 32 be the playoff teams and they be seeded according to how they go out in the playoff rounds.  So that is bylaw proposal No. 4.

            Greg, that's about all I have.

            GREG AIELLO:  Okay, that's good.  Let's go right to questions.

            Q.  I wanted to read a couple proposals from last year and maybe even further back for some of them and see if you think some of them are still alive and under consideration.  The hair proposal, the tampering proposal that came up last year that kind of creates a window for free agency, and also reseeding for the playoffs?

            RICH McKAY:  The answer is the hair proposal was not brought up, not discussed by any club and not on the table, so I don't expect that to be a topic of discussion.

            The tampering proposal that we talked about last year we have reintroduced again into the discussion.  It will be in our report.  It will be something that we will talk about with the membership and potentially propose in May.

            The reseeding of the playoffs is a bylaw proposal by Jacksonville this year, and I think it's bylaw proposal No. 1.  I assume we will discuss that.  I'll be interested in hearing what the teams say.  Last year clearly the support was not there for it.  I think Jacksonville wanted to reintroduce it to get the discussion going again.  But that will be something we discuss.

            Q.  Does the committee have a position on the tampering and what you'd like to see done, if anything?

            RICH McKAY:  I would say more typically we wouldn't give you our positions on votes, but on tampering, we last year proposed that there be some type of dead period or moratorium period if you will, some five to seven days before the start of free agency, at which time you could negotiate with a player, you could not bring him in for a physical and you could not sign a contract, but we thought it was a good way to deal with the period right before free agency.  We will propose as a committee something along those lines, pending discussion with the membership, because I think we want to go back and talk to the clubs, especially in the football operations meeting on Monday, and see where they would stand on such a proposal.  Last year we really never invented the proposal.  We proposed it as a committee, and we again were unanimous in support of it again, but I think we want to see where the membership is with respect to it.

            Q.  My question is about officiating:  Is there anything on the agenda that pertains to Super Bowl L?

            RICH McKAY:  No, there isn't.  But we hope you'll come to the meeting anyway.

            Q.  Mike Pereira had talked in the fall about possibly equipping umpires with some sort of protective helmet or jacket, and I wonder if that's going to be discussed at all.

            RICH McKAY:  Sam, it wasn't discussed at our meetings in Indy or in Naples.  We have discussed that in years past, and I know Mike has done research and had people do research on equipment and what could be used by umpires.  But I can tell you he did not bring it back up again at those two meetings.  I don't want to speak for him because maybe he is still considering that and maybe he'll bring it up at a separate time.  I know the umpires themselves have always pushed back pretty good on that, but I do know that he spent some time researching it a ways back and I'd be surprised if it didn't resurface.

            Q.  Rich, you talked a minute ago about overtime and there's nothing you're going to be in a position to propose this year.  Do you have the statistics on 2008, how many teams won the coin toss ended up winning the overtime game on that first possession?

            RICH McKAY:  I do have those.  We talked long and hard about them.  In fact we put them in our survey and we talked to the players about them.  I think everybody is still comfortable with the system.  Let me give you what I have.

            The team that won the coin toss won 63 percent of the games.

            Q.  On the first possession?

            RICH McKAY:  No, they won 43.4 percent on the first possession.

            Q.  And then you said 63 total?

            RICH McKAY:  That's correct, 63.3 percent of the games they won, and they won 43.4 of them on the first possession.

            Q.  Before I let you guys go, are those numbers at all troubling to you guys that they're so high, particularly 43 percent on the first possession?

            RICH McKAY:  I'll speak for myself personally.  They are troubling to me personally in the sense that I would like to see a game that you would think was "more balanced", but I will say that when you talk to the membership and you talk to the players, I think they're comfortable with the fact that they had a chance to play defense, the game is decided in sudden death.  There is a sense they like the system and the excitement that the system brings, and there's not a real complaint by them that, oh, well, we're not getting a chance to match.  Because in their feeling, and they're very clear about it, hey, we could have helped ourselves, all we had to do was stop them.

            I sense more concern, and I've had some, but I've sensed more concern with the media about it probably than they do, meaning the players, the coaches, the members of the league.  It's been something that we didn't end up with any proposal this year.

            RAY ANDERSON:  I would have to tell you that I myself was a little surprised at how adamant the players were about not wanting to change the current overtime system and agreeing with Rich's assessment that they say, look, the excitement is there, everyone has got an opportunity to win this thing in regulation. They were pretty adamant that extended play time, when you're playing 20 games, exposes you to injury risk, and they'd just as soon say, let's battle it out during regulation, and if you can't win it in regulation, you take your chances in overtime.  But we like it the way it is.

            I was a little surprised that they were as strong about it as they are.  But the stats are of a concern.  Rich said that going in, and we'll continue to look at it.  But right now we just had no consensus whatsoever.

            Q.  Rich, the commissioner said at a state of the union or a state of the league address that Thanksgiving games are only guaranteed through this season and then maybe next season they'll rotate, but Dallas and Detroit aren't guaranteed.  Where does that stand?

            RICH McKAY:  It's been a topic that we've talked about before and we probably looked at it again.  I think we've got something in our report about it.  Just in the sense that we always look at the fact, is there a competitive advantage by teams that have the repeat game, in this case on Thanksgiving?  And we have not found that statistically there is a competitive advantage.  The statistics don't back that up.

            You would sense it would, and the membership is quick -- some of the members are quick to say, well, they get that home game, it's a Thursday game, there's got to be an advantage, but yet when you look at the numbers, and we did get this year's, that doesn't necessarily show up.  That doesn't mean that the commissioner, who has control of the schedule, wouldn't decide to change it, but when asked the simple question is there a competitive advantage that the Competition Committee sees by awarding these games on a continuous basis?  Our answer has been, no, we have not seen one.

            Q.  Rich, how much did the kickoff rules and the other rule, the wedge, how much did the Kevin Everett injury play into you guys making these rule proposals?

            RICH McKAY:  Well, his injury was unfortunate, but it did not occur in either of those instances.  He didn't hit the wedge, nor was it an on-side kick situation. It was a tackling situation and most unfortunate.  When you talk to the players, the players brought these rules up and brought up the concern in these two instances and these two types of plays.  And when you watch the tape, the tape kind of showed us that these are situations where we're probably creating match-ups that we don't like.  So it was driven much more by that than Kevin Everett's injury.  But we look at all those injury numbers, and whenever you see an alarming number, you want to make sure you address the area which it came from.

            In this instance it was just that -- I'll give the players credit because when we sat down and went through a lot of safety issues, they were pretty quick to point out the wedge, that the wedge concerned them.

            RAY ANDERSON:  Certainly one of the things that is impressive is that the players are very engaged in protecting themselves, and so with regard to the wedge in particular, they were the primary instigators of those discussions.  But one of the things that we really focused on this year was playing safety rules to eliminate the illegal techniques, and we got a lot of early season criticism about our emphasis on these helmet-to-helmet hits.  But what we certainly noticed toward the second half of the season in particular was that our violations for unnecessary roughness and helmet-to-helmet hits started to decline. We, in fact, have film we're going to take and share with the owners at the owners meeting that shows very clearly that for those of us monitoring the game, it became very apparent that the players were adapting their play toward the second half of the season, still playing very aggressively, very tough, but staying away from the helmet-to-helmet hits and still being able to break up those passes.

            I think even the players, the coaches, and certainly we at the Competition Committee, saw a very significant trend toward tough, aggressive play but playing within the rules.

            GREG AIELLO:  Mike Pereira will show you that tape as part of his session on Tuesday. 

            Q.  I just had a question, Rich, about Playoff expansion.  I know Kansas City and New England had brought that up years ago.  Did it come up at all with the membership?

            RICH McKAY:  It did not show up at all.  Didn't see it in the survey.  Didn't have really any discussion about it at the Competition Committee meetings this year, not much last year.  Obviously a couple years ago we had a lot of discussion about it, but it hasn't showed up in the discussions lately amongst the members.

            Q.  One of the bylaws you mentioned had to do with the change in the draft order.  Was that sponsored by a team?

            RICH McKAY:  No, that was sponsored by the committee itself.  We kind of talked through the reseeding issue, and in talking through the reseeding issue proposed by Jacksonville, realizing what opposition was there last year, we talked about the fact that we do have some issues, too, with respect to playoff games, and the fact that a team wins its division, gets a home playoff game, wins the game but yet gets the pick in front of the team that's beat, and we thought we need to go back and fix the system with respect to playoff, non-playoff teams, and then deal with the fact that we want to treat people by standing based on when they go out of the playoffs.  So that was really committed by us.

            Q.  Just out of curiosity, with the record field goal percentages this year and actually in recent years, too, is there ever any even casual discussion about moving the goal posts in?

            RICH McKAY:  Good question.  I think there was.  Maybe it's been eight or nine years.  There has not been since then.  I have not really heard much discussion of it.  I think that the numbers have increased at a pretty high rate here with the accuracy, and it really increased from the 40s to the 50s.  It's just incredible how accurate the kickers have become.

            Does that mean there will be some discussion of it going forward?  I don't know, but I wouldn't doubt that somebody is going to bring it back up, because the accuracy is very impressive.  I'll give them that.  And maybe that's something, because we're always going to look at the ratio of touchdowns to field goals, and one of the things about accuracy of field goals is that ratio tends to go in the wrong direction, and so at some point I'm sure somebody will bring it back up and we'll be back talking about it.

            Q.  Greg mentioned earlier about restructuring, talk about what the specifics are and what might be done with that.

            RAY ANDERSON:  Well, what we are continuing to do is just to evaluate with the assistance of the Competition Committee and our General Managers Advisory Committee, the football readiness, the competitive issues with regard to a 17-game versus an 18-game potential regular season.  We will give more of that feedback to the ownership at the meeting, but like Greg said earlier, there's no contemplation that we're going to take a vote.  But we'll continue massaging the topic because obviously the competitive readiness issues are the primary ones for the football ops folks.

            GREG AIELLO:  There are other areas beyond the football group that are analyzing the potential restructuring of the season, including how it would impact our media partnerships and many other things.  So it's a collaborative effort involving a lot of entities in terms of the analysis.

            Q.  Re: the season format:

            RAY ANDERSON:  I have not had extensive conversations with players.  I think at the end of the day, players will just want to make sure that whatever is done, they participate in the discussions and are treated fairly.

            GREG AIELLO:  Just to be clear what we're talking about, we're talking about potential modification in our 20-game season format.  In other words, we have a 20-game season, so the question is what should be the number of regular season versus preseason games within that 20-game format.

            Q.  Rich, one last thing on the numbers you started out with:  You talked about points per game and yards per game, that it was the most since 1970.  Do you feel comfortable that the game is in balance or do you think that it's trending -- it's going to be too much offense which would be kind of ironic since we've been talking about defense?

            RICH McKAY:  It would be ironic.  I don't sense that it is going to trend toward offense because if you look at our numbers historically, they tend to move their way up and then defensive coordinators and head coaches find ways to have them trend back down because they're awfully good at what they do.

            So I don't believe our rules are out of balance.  I believe our rules are in good balance.  If that did happen we'd go back and look at it, but I don't sense that's going to be the issue.

            Q.  Greg or Ray, is there anything you guys can say about the Donté Stallworth situation and the tragedy in Miami from a league perspective?

            GREG AIELLO:  We're just continuing to monitor it.

            Q.  Rich, you could have had a Super Bowl this year where it could have gone to overtime and it could have been affected by a coin flip.  Are you comfortable deciding a Super Bowl without each team having the ball once?

            RICH McKAY:  I think my personal opinion is that it concerns me, but it also is a system that everybody knows the rules of and everybody does have an opportunity to play defense.  It's not as though the coin flip decides the game.  The accuracy of the kickers and the length of the field goals I thought was going to be a big factor.  But when you look at the numbers, it's amazing that the overtime games that were decided -- I think the average field goal was something like 37 yards.  So it means the team had made it all the way to the opponent's 20 yard line and obviously had a real drive, not a 55-yard field goal, which would be my fear.

            I think that we are comfortable with that in the sense that I think people inside the league like the system, the system is built for excitement, and we have an opportunity to play defense.  So I think for now that's the system we're going to stay with.

            Do I think something may be done in years to come?  We'll see.  But I think for now everybody is pretty comfortable with the system that you just described as potentially happening.

            Q.  I wanted to get back to that blind side block there and see if the Phillip Rivers/Hines Ward play was at all a factor and if that play came up in the safety issue.

            RICH McKAY:  You know, there were a lot of blocks that came into this one.  We saw special teams hits where people were coming back towards the goal line and hit too high.  We saw many blocks of receivers, and I saw the Hines Ward hit, all of which were legal blocks.  I don't think we focused on Hines' block at all as the reason to change the rule.  I think we focused on the fact that we didn't like, in certain situations, the fact that players, and that's why we used the word "blind side," players had no real opportunity to defend themselves and were getting hit helmet to helmet.  We felt that was a risk that they had not assumed and shouldn't assume, and we should try to take it out.

            But I would not say it was based on one block because I saw many, and I saw some on special teams that were concerning just because, again, the player didn't have an opportunity to see what was coming.

            Q.  Would that be a play that would now be illegal?

            RICH McKAY:  That's a good question.  Ray, did we say that that was helmet to helmet?  I don't remember looking at the Rivers hit as to whether Hines' helmet was helmet to helmet with Rivers.

            RAY ANDERSON:  I think there was some debate there.  Some of our guys may have seen helmet to helmet, some may have seen shoulder to helmet.  But to Rich's point, a number of plays are reviewed.  As we go into these Competition Committee meetings we have Mike Pereira and his staff draw a number of plays that potentially could have been a foul, particularly when we have an emphasis on something like these player helmet-to-helmet hits and that's been a big emphasis.  So we said both on the defensive side and the offensive side, let's look at a bunch of hits.

            So certainly Hines was one, perfectly legal last year, but as Rich said, the results of those types of hits, and there were several of them that we looked at, led to the conclusion that for player safety sake, we have to eliminate those types of blind side hits, if you will, for the better of our players and our game going forward.

            The process is pretty exhaustive.  It's not just one or two plays, and we get emotional about it and then that results in a new rule the following season.  That's not the process.

            Q.  But that was one of the plays that you looked at?

            RAY ANDERSON:  One of several plays that we looked at, that's correct.  And again, under this year's rules that was a legal hit.  But we're trying to advance safety and preserve our players.  So going forward that would be a flag play.

            RICH McKAY:  One thing before your next question, I don't want to give the wrong impression that our emphasis on player safety is always going to be there, and obviously this year we have a number of rules proposals, but I don't want that to lead to the conclusion that our injury numbers are up because they're not.  They're right within historical ranges, and 2008 was not anything out of the ordinary at all.  It's just we're trying to get a little bit ahead of the curve, and we sit there and they show us a tape of every different injury type and how they occurred, and if you see a trend or you see something and you think we need to defend a player that potentially can't defend himself.  That's how rule proposals come about.

            Q.  One quick question because there was a significant play in the Tennessee playoff game:  I wonder if there was any proposal or any talk about one of the officials having a buzzer when the play clock goes down to zero for delay of game.

            RICH McKAY:  Yes, there was plenty of discussion with respect to the play clocks, and we reviewed that play and numerous plays during the season that involved the play clock.  No, we don't recommend a buzzer being placed on the official, nor do we recommend that that be brought within the purview of replay.  Let me give you a reasoning:  Number one, we looked, and I don't know if Ray would know, but upwards of 30 to 35 plays that were sent in by teams as, hey, the play clock expired but you didn't throw the flag.  We looked at those, and I cannot tell you how close they are and how hard it is to tell whether the ball is moving up or has the clock already struck zero, which is it?  And it's very hard to tell.

            There's a couple plays where it's noticeable.  I think we saw two in total.  Obviously one occurred in the playoff game.  But we did not think that that was something that merited a change.  It just merited emphasis to the officials as to being aware of the clock striking zero and whether the ball has been snapped.  And if it has not, the flag should be thrown.  We should not be in a position where we miss that call, and I think the emphasis that Mike will place on it and the work he'll do with the officials should create a much more similar situation next year.

            I don't think this is one where we wanted to get involved because when you looked at the plays in total, and there's a number of them, they are really, really close and very tough to determine.  But we like the system as it sits right now.

            Q.  I was wondering if there was any study of the impact last summer on the hard 80-man roster and effects from that, and if there was any discussion about increasing training camp numbers by whatever numbers it might be.

            RICH McKAY:  I don't think at one point in time in this entire meeting we discussed roster size with respect to training camp.  Last year there was a lot of discussion about it. There were a lot of concerns.  I think teams did just what we thought they would, which was they adjusted and found ways to get themselves ready, and there's nothing on the table this year that would change that.

            Could that change in the future?  Yes. I could see it being addressed in the future.  I don't see it being addressed this year, and I don't know of any data, because it's certainly never shown to us, any data that was gathered with respect to injuries or anything else that resulted from the 80-man change.  But as I said for now, I'm certain we'll stay with that system for the upcoming season.

            Q.  Just as a follow-up, any thought, especially going into that last game of the preseason where a lot of starters don't play, and you have one roster cut to five guys and then the next one is 22?  Any thought of maybe eliminating that first cut?

            RICH McKAY:  Yes, there's been discussion of that, and there are people such as myself that would probably favor that, and at some point in time I think that will be suggested.  I don't think now is the time.  Nobody put it forth this year.  That's something that I think we will discuss with the membership probably next year.  In a year or two I would imagine, that will be something that will get proposed and maybe enacted.

            Q.  Two of the proposals it seems like have lightning bolts.  First, it's been 25 years since a team won the division with an 8-8 record.  Did the Chargers' season last year have to do at all with the draft restructuring?

            RICH McKAY:  We talked about this draft restructuring in years past and never really got focused on it.  I wouldn't say necessarily that the Chargers–Indianapolis situation caused us to go back to it.  But I think that the fact that the reseeding discussion of last year following up with the discussion this year led us to go back and look at the last couple drafts and say, how would the impact be, and do we think this is a better system or is this system not as good? We thought it would be a better system to base it on playoffs.

            I don't think San Diego was the reason, but I think it was part of the examination.

            Q.  My other question is concerning punt replay.  Is that something you've ever considered getting involved in?

            RICH McKAY:  Yes, it is.  What you're talking about obviously is the play in which the Denver quarterback is outside the pocket and fumbles but it's ruled incomplete and therefore it couldn't be reviewed.  We had discussed it before, and the concern when we first put down by contact as reviewable, meaning the fumble had been ruled down by contact by the official so it wasn't reviewable.  When we made that reviewable as a league, the theory on the quarterbacks was for player safety purposes, let's just leave that one alone.  If the ball comes out, let's have the official blow it dead and let's not get involved in that.

            When we watched the tape, we didn't see it.  We watched every play this year that involved that, and we did not see player safety as an issue.  The ball is coming out many times because the quarterback was getting hit, and a lot of other times it happened in a situation where he was outside of the pocket unlike the situation in Denver, so we did not see player safety as a reason to not have that be a reviewable play, and as we watched the plays we thought it happened in the same way as the down-by-contact plays happened, and we thought we should go ahead and include it in that category.

            Q.  Greg, just to clarify on the Stallworth thing, would charges make him in violation of the conduct policy, or does he have to be found guilty of something?

            GREG AIELLO:  It depends.  It depends on his history, which I'm not familiar with.  Charges in and of themselves would not necessarily result in discipline, especially if charges are dismissed or the player is found innocent of those charges.  Premature to say.

            Q.  Rich, it seems some momentum would be gained by one tweak in the overtime rule -- changing the kickoff.  It's not the field goals, it's the kickoffs that seem to be a big impact on overtime, and where did that discussion lead you?

            RICH McKAY:  Good question.  We proposed it a few years back as a committee, even though we didn't have unanimous support of the committee, I think we were 6 to 2 in favor of proposing that change and we did propose it.  I want to say we got 17 votes, maybe 18, clearly up to 24 necessary to pass.  We discussed it again this year, and based on the sentiment of the players, based on the sentiment of the membership and the fact that there was not agreement within the committee, we didn't think it was appropriate to submit it.

            I do think it's something that potentially could be discussed again down the road because one thing that the statistics show is that that move has had an effect on field position, and maybe that's the effect that warrants the change in the statistics.  But I wouldn't be so quick to that because then we looked at average start positions this year on overtime, and they weren't as high as you would think they would be.  So we just didn't propose it because we just couldn't get enough support for it.

            Q.  Rich or Ray, in essence when we're talking about restructuring to a 17- or 18-game season, there's a lot of moving parts to that.  Isn't it seen as being tied up very much in the next collective bargaining agreement, so whatever is going to happen at this meeting regarding that is going to be a lot of talk and maybe laying some groundwork for that move?

            RAY ANDERSON:  I think that's a correct assessment.  I mean, these discussions are going to involve a lot of people, not the least of which will be the players and their union.  So yeah, we're just trying to get our options and the ramifications and unintended consequences of anything we might propose, be it 17 or 18, as clear as we can, and that's the intent of the meetings coming up with the owners. We'll continue to just massage it, and at some point be much more comfortable about making a hard recommendation.

            Q.  Will it be seen as maybe a potential move to 17 or maybe jumping all the way to 18?  Both options are very much on the table?

            RAY ANDERSON:  Yes, we're evaluating both.

            GREG AIELLO:  I was pointing out that the players have been involved in the discussions of this going on back over a year.

            Q.  Ray, in that one safety issue, the defenseless receiver, did you use any ... Ryan Clark had two notable hits on receivers during the year this year, and one of them was on Wes Welker of New England.  Did that come into play?  And is that kind of a model of what you might make illegal next year?

            RAY ANDERSON:  No, not a model. One of the things that's been really interesting for me, having been here three years, is to participate in the process. The Competition Committee looks at multiple plays, and it's a group of some very astute football people, and we look at multiple plays multiple times, so that your hits for your guy were in the 30 or 40 hits that we reviewed.

            But there's no one or two or three particular plays that generate a new rule.  There's no model, per se, that I identified or I thought the group identified.  Rich can speak for himself.

            RICH McKAY:  I think that's true.  We looked at plays from the last couple years, not just this past year, and so that led us to this conclusion.  It certainly wasn't one play.

            Q.  I don't know if you recall the play ...

            RICH McKAY:  I really don't.  I recall a couple of hits, but that one is not clear in my mind as to how that happened.

            Q.  He was in the air and he hit him with his forearm.  That sounds like what you're describing.

            RICH McKAY:  To be quite frank, we had a lot over the years in which players have gotten good at leading with their shoulder, some with the forearm, but leading with their shoulder, and we felt like the receiver needs that protection.  The additional contact -- we're going to protect that defenseless receiver.   

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