FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday the idea of expanding the NFL regular-season remains a possibility and that he hopes a new collective bargaining agreement with the Players' Association will happen sooner than later.
“It’s part of the discussions,” Goodell said of going to a 17-game season. “We’ve had very fruitful discussions on it, discussing the positives and negatives of it. That’s something that we’ll continue.”
Goodell said recent rules changes and practice techniques to address player health and safety give him confidence that adding an extra game won’t adversely impact players. Remember, too, that an additional regular-season game will also result in a reduction of at least one preseason game, if not more.
Goodell cited the “changes to the game we’ve made over the last 10 years that are really important, the safety of the game and how we’re practicing, training our players, and I think those changes have made a significant impact in a positive way.”
Details of how a 17-game season would work remain to be ironed out, especially how an odd number of games would be handled as far as which teams get nine home games and eight road games in a given season. One person familiar with the discussions said it was “doubtful” that there would be a neutral-site game for each team, and another person familiar with CBA talks said there could be an annual rotation between conferences as to which teams would get nine home games in a given season.
How soon could a new CBA be reached?
“I don’t know how to gauge when or how soon,” Goodell said. “We all know the various issues. I’m hopeful that we can get something done, but that’s still to be determined.”
Goodell expressed some concern about the recent focus on officiating, especially after the Packers’ 23-22 win over the Lions Monday night, in which the NFL admitted that a key penalty on Lions defensive lineman Trey Flowers late in the game was mistakenly called.
“Officiating has always been a focus for us,” he said. “I’m close to 40 years [in the NFL] and there’s always a two- or three-week period where there’s an intense focus on it. But you never want to see a game where people are talking about officials…That’s sports. You see it in every sport.”
Goodell told Newsday that he still had confidence in Al Riveron, the league’s senior vice president of officiating.
“Yes, absolutely,” Goodell said. “Absolutely.”
The introduction of a coach’s challenge for pass interference calls and non-calls — adopted in March for the 2019 season — has been another area of concern among coaches and fans, with the overwhelming number of challenges not resulting in reversals.
“I think [the coaches] understood that replay was not going to correct every close call,” Goodell said. “We’re not re-officiating these plays. The thought process was to correct the obvious error. Whenever there’s a rule change, there’s a period of adaptation and there’s a period of testing.”
Goodell said he was not concerned about the Dolphins or any other team purposely losing their games to be in position for a higher draft pick. He added the league will not consider a draft lottery like the NBA.
“From our standpoint, we find the draft to be successful on many fronts,” he said. “[A lottery] is not under active consideration. I don’t think the league has ever been more competitive.”
Goodell said the league is still investigating allegations of domestic abuse against wide receiver Antonio Brown, who was released by the Patriots on Sept. 20.