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Overtime debate still simmers

ORLANDO, Fla. - When you're holding the Vince Lombardi trophy in large part because of your guts and moxie, you can pretty much say anything you want.

Enter Saints head coach Sean Payton, who had no problem Wednesday taking on Lyndon Baines Goodell and the way the NFL conducted Tuesday's 28-4 vote to change the overtime rule in the playoffs. Roger Goodell wanted the two-possession rule and he showed how effective he is as a commissioner when he pushed through a proposal that looked dead on the first day of the meetings.

But he also teed off his coaches.

Payton wasn't like the Bengals' Marvin Lewis and most of the other head coaches who were on the golf course in their annual outing. But he had just lunched with golf great Arnold Palmer when he returned to the Ritz-Carlton and discovered the owners voted a day earlier than expected.

"It kind of slipped through; it got in the back door," Payton said at the NFC coaches media breakfast, opening his notebook to pull out an itinerary. "That taste you have in your mouth when something like that takes place is bitter. … It had a lot of people off guard when it was being done. Which tells me there may not have been all that much confidence that had it been done in the normal itinerary it would have passed. Pretty interesting if you ask me."

Also interested was Vikings coach Brad Childress.

"I'm interested that the vote would be 28-4 when one of the owners was out on the course with us. I'm sure you can have a proxy system here to make sure (of) that," Childress said. "Jeff Fisher, Marvin Lewis and some of the competition committee guys were in the loop. That was about hole 15 I think. Their prerogative though."

The Bengals were one of four teams to vote against it with both Lewis and Bengals president Mike Brown for keeping the sudden-death system. Brown wouldn't comment on the early vote, but he said he could understand why "it's important to Roger," and he indicated he'll vote to extend it to the regular season if it comes up in the May meeting as expected.

"The decision is what the decision is; I think it's a good solution," said Lewis, who reportedly voted against it on the competition committee. "The best solution I heard and we'll move forward with it. (If) there's going to be a change I think it's a good change."

Goodell defended the early vote, in part, because some owners weren't going to be around Wednesday.

"We had a meeting yesterday morning with the coaches," Goodell said at Wednesday's wrap-up press conference. "It was a full debate and the owners heard it, and of course it's probably no secret that certain owners have different views than their coaches. But there are 32 votes for 32 clubs. This may not be a news flash but the owners have the vote."

Goodell said the vote was Tuesday because the owners "heard the debate and they felt it was good for the game and the fans and we needed to come to a resolution."

Seven of the eight rules proposals were approved Wednesday with the only one that failed a replay review inside of one minute of either half resulting in the on-field ruling being reversed and the correct ruling would not stop the game clock, then the officials would run 10 seconds off before the next whistle.

"It's a mechanical thing that we have a human element in our system and that's the way it is," Lewis said. "Our clock doesn't start and stop on the whistle because we have running clocks. We don't have four-digit stadium clocks because of that. I think people were looking a little bit more for perfection. What the committee came up with what was a good solution to correct an error in timing."

Lewis said the league is discussing implementing a four-digit clock with tenths of seconds.

One rule that got passed outlaws a defenseless player to get hit in the head or neck area by an opponent who launches himself and uses his helmet, shoulder or forearm to make contact. Also when a player running with the ball loses his helmet, the whistle blows immediately with the ball placed at forward progress.

Goodell also said that in an effort to get competitive games every week in the face of teams resting so many players in preparation for the playoffs he is mulling making the last week and possibly the next-to-last week of the regular season divisional games.

It is the first Brown has heard of the idea and while he thinks there is an issue there that needs to be addressed, he's not sure that will solve it.

"What if a team has already clinched the division?" Brown asked. "We like the idea of the division games spread throughout the year. A few years ago it seemed that we were done halfway through the season. They are certainly prideful games."

Brown, who has been coming to NFL meetings in an official capacity since the late '50s, was heartened by the reports the owners were given on the state of the game.

"We do remarkably well; it's amazing the interest we have," he said. "It's reflected in the television ratings. Extremely strong. This is the game America follows more than any other game. It has the interest of our country and I think back to how it developed and that means something to me."

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