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Goodell in favor of altered overtime format

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell likes the proposal to alter the overtime system for the playoffs, but is his support enough to sway the owners?

The recommendation of the league's competition committee is the team that loses the coin toss in overtime would get a possession if the receiving team scores three points on its first drive. If the team that kicked off to start overtime scores a touchdown it would win. If it kicks a tying field goal, the game would return to the current sudden-death format.

"This stays true to the integrity of the game," Goodell said Monday during the NFL's annual spring meetings. "The competition committee has come up with something very much worth considering. It keeps the tradition of sudden death, and I think it is responsive to some of the issues that have been brought up. It's getting a lot of thought. It's got potential to be a better system."

Any rule change would require the support of 24 of the 32 owners.

There was a mixed reaction to the overtime proposal among the owners, coaches and general managers polled Monday.

Bills GM Buddy Nix is among those in favor of modifying overtime.

"I think probably it's a good idea," he said. "Fans want it and what it does is if you're a team that gets beat without ever touching the ball by a field goal, obviously you feel that you've been cheated if you don't get a shot at it. I probably shouldn't say this, but I think any time you take a kick out of it, a field goal out of the equation, then it helps."

Bills coach Chan Gailey didn't state his preference, saying he needs time to study the proposal.

"I just saw the proposal today, so I think we're going to have to look at it and discuss it a little bit more to make sure that it's good for everybody," he said. "But I know we want to be proactive rather than reactive."

Nix and Gailey believe changing overtime would affect coaching strategy. Nix said teams might be more apt to go for a first down on fourth-and-1 inside the red zone rather than settling for a field goal in an effort to end the game before the opponent gets a possession.

"Any time a rule changes it changes strategy," Gailey added. "It's just a matter of how much. It will have an impact whichever way it goes."

There's no guarantee owners will approve a rule change. Minnesota owner Zygi Wilf, whose team lost in overtime in the NFC Championship Game, is leaning toward voting against a switch in part because it wouldn't apply to the regular season as well.

Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee, said having Goodell's backing could help sway the owners.

"It's important," McKay said. "He's the one the owners would listen to. [But] I think he'll leave it to us as a committee to make sure we make the case on the competitive aspect."

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The Bills were not awarded any compensatory picks in next month's draft, the NFL announced Monday.

The number of picks a team gets equals the net loss of compensatory free agents up to a maximum of four. The picks are from the third to seventh round based on the value of the free agents lost.

Cornerback Jabari Greer was the only significant free agent the Bills lost last year, while they signed receiver Terrell Owens, center Geoff Hangartner, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and cornerback Drayton Florence.

Nineteen teams received at least one of the 32 compensatory picks awarded, with New England leading the way with four.

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Goodell didn't have much to say about the labor situation. The league and the players union haven't held any negotiations for weeks, but Goodell said that was a logistical issue because the NFLPA held its annual meetings in Maui earlier this month, while the league was planning for its own meetings.

Goodell indicated that both sides would set up some negotiating sessions "in the next week or so."

The collective bargaining agreement expires next March and a work stoppage is possible without a new deal. But Goodell is taking a more optimistic view.

"The best thing I can say is we are still at a very early stage," he said. "Let's allow the collective bargaining process to continue. We are in the first quarter here."

e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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