The NFL is considering both a reduction of its preseason and an expansion of its playoff field but does not intend to make either change for next season, Commissioner Roger Goodell said Tuesday.
Goodell said at the conclusion of a one-day NFL owners meeting in Washington that the earliest he could foresee an expanded postseason field being in effect is the 2015 season.
He also said he does not envision the sport cutting back its preseason next year, in advance of any playoff expansion.
“I really don’t think that we’d be making that kind of change in ’14,” Goodell said of a reduced preseason. “Our teams go out with their ticket packages as early as November. So we really don’t have an awful lot of time and we want to do it… carefully.”
Asked about the soonest that an expanded playoff field could be implemented, Goodell said: “There’s a lot to be done. First we’d have to make a recommendation. I would think it would probably be the 2015 season.”
The NFL is considering the possibility of reducing its preseason, probably to three games per team instead of the current four. The league could expand its postseason field to seven teams per conference instead of the current six. That would create an additional first-round playoff game in each conference, which would generate extra revenues for the sport to compensate for the loss of some preseason games.
“We’re looking at it and continuing to try to see what the best course to go is,” Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay said. “But there wasn’t anything significant talked about in this meeting.”
Said Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones: “The commissioner made an opening address that just touched on many topics to work with over the coming months and year. And that’s about the only reference to it” at Tuesday’s meeting.
Goodell said he sees merit to both ideas.
“I mentioned this in my opening that I thought we needed to continue to evaluate the quality of the preseason,” Goodell said. “I’ve been very open about I don’t think it matches the quality of what we do in the NFL and that we have to address that. That could mean less preseason games. It could mean other changes that we want to evaluate with respect to the preseason.
“Same with the postseason…. If expanding the postseason would allow other teams to get into the dance and they have the potential of going on to win the Super Bowl, that’s a good thing for fans. It’s a good thing competitively. And what’s happened is our league is so competitive right now, our games are so close, that that’s realistic to think a team can have a great second half, get into the playoffs and win the Super Bowl. We’ve seen it. So we want to continue to keep all those on the table. The competition committee is going to look at that and discuss it.”
One issue to be studied, Goodell said, is how an expanded playoff format would be scheduled. With seven teams in each conference reaching the playoffs, only one team per conference—instead of the current two—would receive a first-round postseason bye. That would leave three first-round playoff games in each conference being played, or a total of six first-round games league-wide. Goodell said some of those games possibly could be played on a Friday or a Monday instead of simply playing all of them on Saturday and Sunday.
“If we do this, we want to do it right,” Goodell said. “And so we have to evaluate all those issues.”
In other developments Tuesday:
*New Orleans, Indianapolis and Minneapolis were chosen as the finalists to host Super Bowl LII in 2018. The host city for that Super Bowl is to be picked next year.
*Goodell defended the league against portrayals that it failed in the past to warn players properly about the potential health risks they faced from concussions.
“We just settled litigation with several thousand concussion cases where there were similar charges,” Goodell said. “We don’t mislead our players. We led the way over the last three decades in trying to make sure that there is a greater focus on this, to get medicine and science involved and to try to make improvements in our game. And we have, and we’re proud of that. Our focus is what we’re doing to make the game safer today and going forward because that’s what we can really impact. And I think we have–the rule changes, the equipment changes, the investment in research.
“In medicine, it’s not unusual to have disputes within the medical community, and that’s encouraged in the medical community. That’s how science evolves. That’s how science progresses. That’s something that’s important that we invest in that and pioneer research so that we do find new discoveries, new ways to either prevent the injury from occurring or when it does happen, to treat it. I’ve been traveling around quite a bit and I’ve seen the progress that’s being made, particularly in the treatment area. That’s exciting. That’s what we’re investing in.”
*The NFL announced a partnership with the American College of Sports Medicine, the National PTA, the National Athletic Trainers’ Association and USA Football to promote player safety in youth and high school football.