Wednesday, January 22, 2003
Upshaw emphasizes union supports change
By Len Pasquarelli
SAN DIEGO -- Upset at the number of overtime games in 2002 that were won by the team which received the kickoff,
NFL Players Association executive director Gene Upshaw said here Thursday that his constituents want the rules changed for contests go into an extra period.
"By and large, most players feel you have a right to get the ball on offense, and a right to have a chance to score,"
said Upshaw, during the NFLPA's annual Super Bowl media session. "They feel the current rules aren't fair ones. We need to make a change."
Upshaw said the union will make a proposal to the league's influential competition committee before the annual NFL meetings in March.
The competition committee, which typically convenes two weeks before the owners meet, is charged with recommending rules changes.
It would take a three-quarters vote of the owners - or 24 of 32 teams - to alter the current sudden-death playoff rules,
which stipulates that the first team to score in any manner wins the game.
Tampa Bay general manager Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee,
reiterated here this week that he does not sense a groundswell of support from the owners for making any change to the existing rules.
Nine of the league-record 25 overtime games played in the regular season were won
by the team that took the kickoff and scored on their opening possession of the extra period.
Since the NFL adopted the current overtime rules in 1974, about 28 percent of the games were won by teams which won the kickoff and scored on their first offensive series.
Upshaw said the NFLPA has not yet completed its proposal, and that there are still "some issues" to be determined, but emphasized the union supports change and will lobby for alterations.
He said the players do not favor the college rules for overtime.
"When you see how close the games are anymore," Upshaw said, "it makes common sense to assure both teams get the ball at least once.
That seems to make the most sense and to be the fairest way of doing things."
Upshaw also said that the union, in partnership with the NFL, will work hard to ensure that more minority candidates are considered for front office jobs.
The two groups are working toward establishing an internship program that would allow interested players to gain skills they need to be future general managers and personnel directors.
"We believe we should concentrate more on the front office than even on the coaches," Upshaw said.
"At least for the coaching positions, we have a pool of talent. But we do not have a pool of talent there when it comes to the front office people. But we will develop that pool of talent and, when we do, those people will get hired."
Len Pasquarelli is a senior writer for ESPN.com.