The NFL will bolster its slate of Thursday night games beginning next season, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Friday. Goodell made the announcement at his annual Super Bowl week news conference.
The league-owned NFL Network currently carries an eight-game package of prime-time games on Thursday and Saturday in the second half of the season.
That package will be increased to 13 games, all on Thursday night, next season, Goodell and other league officials said. Those games would be played between the second and 15th weeks of the regular season.
That package of games would be in addition to the Thursday night season-opening game and the three Thursday games on Thanksgiving, one at night. The season-opening game and the Thanksgiving night game are to be televised next season by NBC.
Each team will play one Thursday game following a Sunday game next season, and each team will have at least one prime-time game, league officials said.
Goodell also said Friday that the league has no immediate plans to expand even as it eyes a possible future return to the Los Angeles market.
“I don’t see that in the foreseeable future,” Goodell said of expansion from the current 32 franchises.
That came after he said in a televised interview Thursday night that the league would not expand by one team to return to Los Angeles, but instead would expand by two franchises if expansion were to happen.
But Goodell said Friday that he and the owners of the 32 teams have not even discussed expansion.
Goodell said the league would like to return to the vacant Los Angeles market “if we can do it correctly.” But he also spoke of the league’s desire to keep existing franchises where they are, leaving open the question of how the NFL would put a team in Los Angeles.
He said there has been recent progress in negotiations with the players’ union on the details of a program for players to be blood-tested for human growth hormone and he’s hopeful that such testing will begin this offseason.
There also will be discussions with the players in the offseason about the possibility of having an independent neurologist on the sidelines at games to make concussion-related medical evaluations, Goodell said.
The league plans to evaluate its new year-round schedule of reduced offseason practices and decreased practice-field hitting, Goodell said, before renewing conversations with the union about a possible lengthening of the regular season from 16 to 18 games. The union has opposed such a measure and the league dropped its proposal for an 18-game season during last year’s labor negotiations, but has expressed a desire to revisit the issue with the players.
Goodell said the handling of this Super Bowl week by Indianapolis has ensured that the city will be a candidate to host another Super Bowl in the future. He said he was not troubled by all of the attention during Super Bowl week given to quarterback Peyton Manning’s status with the Colts.
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