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Not so sudden


Updated: 9 p.m.

Overtime hasn't happened very often in Darrin Simmons' 114 games as the Bengals special teams coach during the past seven seasons. Five times to be exact. But he likes the format simply because "that's the way it's always been," he said. "That's what we're used to; score and the game's over."

But the NFL's timeless sudden death rule for playoffs may be changed next week when the owners meet in Orlando, Fla., to vote on a proposal that would allow each team a possession in the overtime if the team that gets the kickoff kicks a field goal. If they score a touchdown, it's over. If the other team matches the field goal, they keep playing until the next points.

There are a handful of other rule changes and a series of player safety guidelines that the NFL Competition Committee is going to put in front of the owners. But the labor stalemate with a 2011 lockout looming and the overtime vote should lead the topics of discussion.

During Wednesday's conference call with the media, Rich McKay, co-chairman of the competition committee on which Bengals head coach Marvin Lewis serves, outlined several stats that point to the team that wins the overtime coin toss getting the advantage.

The committee looked at the first 20 seasons of sudden death that began in 1974 and compared it to the seasons since 1994, when the kickoff was moved back from the 35 to the 30.

"It's pretty clear there's been a change," McKay said. "From '74 to '93, you had literally a 50/50 split between those that won the toss and those that lost the toss. Those that won, won 46.8 percent of the time and those that lost won 46.8 percent of the time. So it was a system that worked very well.

"Changes occurred over time. Now the numbers have changed pretty dramatically. Now the team that wins the toss wins 59.8 percent and the team that loses the toss wins 38.5%. The pros of the switch is it tries to rebalance the advantage that's been gained since '94 based on field goal accuracy being greatly improved, field position being improved. ... Those on the other side will tell you it works pretty well, it's exciting, and there's an opportunity for less plays, and that is an important product that's needed in overtime."

This is where Simmons comes down. This from a guy that is 1-3-1 in OTs in all different kinds of ways. He had one where his team went an OT without scoring. The one the Bengals won came on the last play of an OT. They lost one where the teams traded punts before the winning field goal.

The only time in his five OTs that the Bengals lost the toss and then lost without getting the ball back came in the 2006 regular-season finale against Pittsburgh at Paul Brown Stadium, where Santonio Holmes is still running away with the Bengals' Wild Card playoff berth on a 67-yard catch-and-run on the third play. Under the new format, a playoff game would have also ended like that because it was a touchdown.

Simmons doesn't think the new rule de-emphasizes the kicking game ("Then they could just kick it off from the 40 and get touchbacks," he said) because he thinks punting may become more of a premium with the heightened strategy. Plus, you still need to kick the field goal to put pressure on the other team if you get the ball first.

But he is uncomfortable with one set of rules for the regular season and another one for the postseason.

"Because your strategy changes," he said, and maybe the best place to look is in his first OT game, a 22-16 loss in Buffalo on Oct. 5, 2003 with the wind blowing bad karma in gusts.

The Bengals won the toss, but had to punt into a 20 mile-per-hour whirlpool, and it turned out to be Nick Harris' last punt as a Bengal, a 29-yarder that put the Bills on their own 45. Two passes for 48 yards, a facemask penalty, and a two-yard TD run in about two minutes and it was Niagara Falls.

But with the sudden death rule, the Bengals had no choice but to take the ball. Now in the playoffs under the new rule if it passes?

"I don't know what we'd do, but I know we'd probably have to talk about taking the wind and not the ball," Simmons said. "It would at least have to be discussed. But the thing is, you still have to stop them from scoring and you still have to move the ball. Why change it?"

In the past, the majority of owners have felt like Simmons. McKay says he doesn't have a feel for how ownership sees this one, but they have been tough to move on OT. He recalls the two-possession proposal was once voted down with just 18 votes. And a proposal to move the kickoff didn't get that many.

Andrew Whitworth, the Bengals representative to the NFL Players Association, said Wednesday the players like idea of each team having a chance to score.

"It's the only fair way," said Whitworth, just back from the NFLPA meetings in Hawaii. "Or else just use the flip of the coin and decide the game that way."

Whitworth says he thinks the majority of players agree with Simmons that no regular-season game should end in a tie, like the Bengals' 13-13 slugest with the Eagles in 2008. No matter if it goes past the fifth quarter.

"I know there are some concerns with TV contracts and all that," Whitworth said. "But it's not fair to fans or players to put all of that into the week and the game and not to have a winner."

Other playing rules proposed to be changed:

» Dead ball fouls on offense and defense carry over to the second half and/or overtime from the fourth quarter.

» Expanding the opportunity for players to wear different numbers, keeping in mind that the 3-4 defenses have players who end up being ends and linebackers.

» Inside the last minute when a call on the field is reviewed and reversed and there should be a running clock, the 10-second runoff is to be standardized.

The major safety guideline involves the defenseless receiver, which is going to give him even more protection.

"Currently the protection provided for the defenseless receiver ends when the receiver has completed the catch, meaning possession of the ball with two feet on the ground," McKay said. "(The proposal says) if a receiver has completed the catch and has not had time to protect himself, a defensive player is prohibited from launching into him in a way that causes the defensive player's helmet, facemask, shoulder or forearm to forcibly strike the receiver's head. We're trying to expand the protection a period of time because we've seen tape where people literally have caught the ball and had no opportunity to avoid and to protect themselves in any way. It's that moment in time where we just think the receiver has not yet become a runner."


» The first Mock Media Draft is scheduled for Friday. Jim Thomas, who covers the Rams for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, has already made the first pick Oklahoma quarterback Sam Bradford.

» With guard Richie Incognito signing in Miami on Wednesday morning, a day after he visited Cincinnati, the Bengals figure to focus on a deal with incumbent right guard Bobbie Williams. Williams, who has played all but three games since he joined the club via free agency in 2004, turns 34 in September.

Reports had the 26-year-old Incognito taking about a $1 million deal with the Dolphins and there were indications the Bengals offered about the same, but they are looking at paying Williams more than that after he made about $2.5 million last year.

Tony Agnone, Williams' agent, talked to the Bengals on Wednesday and plans to speak with them again in the next 24 hours. Williams had said he'd like a deal before offseason workouts start March 29.

"Our goal is to bring him back to Cincinnati," Agnone said.

» Department of You Don't Know If The Ocho is putting us on or not: Chad Ochocinco tweeted he has his own brand of cereal coming out: HONEY NUT OCHOCINC-Os."

» His new running mate, Antonio Bryant, arrives at PBS Thursday to meet and greet for his first time as a Bengal.

» Whitworth said he heard some good things about Bryant over at the NFLPA meetings.

"A lot of guys came up to me and told me Bryant is a guy that is going to help us," said Whitworth, who saw guys like former Bengal T.J. Houshmandzadeh. "It was nice to hear players from other teams talk about how we're keeping our team together."

» There have been rumblings that some players, particularly restricted free agents, may not attend offseason workouts to express their displeasure with the lack of a salary cap that prevented many from becoming unrestricted. Whitworth says he hasn't heard anything about a walkout.

"I don't think guys are worried about this year; they're worried about what's going to happen next year," he said of the looming lockout. "There are guys that may be upset about not being (free agents), but they know that the best way to get a deal when they are up is to be in the best shape possible."

In years past, there have been several RFAs that didn't show up for workouts until the deadline to sign just before the draft and Whitworth doesn't think this year will be out of the ordinary. 

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