NFL Rejects Ravens' Overtime Rule Proposals, Approves Improved Referee Communication

Baltimore Ravens head coach John Harbaugh speaks with a referee during a game.

NFL owners rejected two Ravens proposals to change overtime rules on Wednesday. However, owners approved a recommendation by the competition committee and Ravens to expand communication between the replay booth and officials, a change that the Ravens and many teams have supported.

A joint proposal by the Eagles and Ravens to change the league's overtime format did not receive enough support. A separate overtime proposal by the Ravens to replace sudden death overtime with a 7 ½ minute overtime was also voted down. Any proposed rule change must receive at least 75 percent of the owners' vote to pass.

The joint overtime proposal, often referred to as the "spot and choose" proposal, would have eliminated the overtime kickoff. Instead, the winner of the overtime coin toss would have chosen where to spot the ball to start overtime. The loser of the coin toss would have chosen whether to take possession at the designated spot or defer to play defense. Overtime would last 10 minutes, and the first team to score would win.

NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay said he was intrigued by the overtime proposal, although it was not approved.

"That was an out-of-the-box idea," McKay said in a conference call with reporters. "I thought Baltimore did a really nice job in explaining it. I think ideas like that take a long time to marinate and understand. It didn't have a lot of support, but I've been around rules before that didn't have a lot of support over the years and all of a sudden passed. I think it's good they brought it up."

Head Coach John Harbaugh said in March that he wasn't counting on the proposed overtime rule changes gaining instant approval.

"It still may be before its time – I don't know, we'll find out," Harbaugh said. "We like to be kind of progressive in our thinking here. It's not always the case; sometimes the league is a little more protective.

"We think the main thing is the 'spot and choose' aspect of it is to make it fair. Any luck involved would be the bounce of the ball, not the flip of the coin. I think that's something the fans would appreciate. Once you decide who has the ball, I think every fan can understand who's going to be the winner and what it's going to be based on."

Last week, the Ravens reportedly withdrew their proposal for a "sky judge," an eighth official in the press box who would have power to overrule on-field calls using television angles and replays that are not available to officials on the field.

However, NFL Executive Vice President of Football Operations Troy Vincent said he consulted with Harbaugh and Kansas City Chiefs Head Coach Andy Reid when determining how the league should help officials from the replay booth. The vote to expand communication between the replay booth and officials was a compromise without adding a sky judge. Vincent believes it should help officials make accurate calls on a variety of on-the-field rulings, including interceptions, receptions, fumbles, boundary plays, spotting the ball, and down by contact.

"I think this is the proper step in the right direction," Vincent said. "I spent a lot of time with Coach Reid, Coach Harbaugh in developing. Our officials, referees just felt like they wanted to maintain control of the game. Games should be called on the field with support of the replay official in the stadium, as well as New York, when appropriate. I do believe personally this is a step in the right direction."

In other rule changes:

  • A proposal was passed to relax restrictions on jersey numbers. Expect many players around the league to change numbers.
  • Overtime during preseason has been eliminated.
  • The NFL regular-season schedule will be released May 12.

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