Rooney and Goodell provided the first public confirmation that owners, as previously reported, would like to expand the regular season from 16 to 17 games in this round of bargaining with the NFL Players Association. But neither provided a prediction on whether the NFLPA would agree.
“It is part of those discussions,” Goodell said. “We’ve had very fruitful discussions on it, discussing the positives and negatives, the changes to the game that we’ve made over the last 10 years, which I think are really important as it relates to the safety of the game and how we’re preparing and practicing, training our players. And I think those changes have made a significant impact in a positive way. And so that is something that we’ll continue to discuss and that may or may not be part of whatever we ultimately decide.”
Before wrapping up a two-day meeting Wednesday, owners were given an update on the negotiations with the players on a new collective bargaining agreement.
The owners’ proposed lengthening of the regular season probably would be accompanied by a reduction of the preseason, from four to two or three games. There also could be an expansion of the NFL playoff field from 12 to 14 teams. The additional regular season and postseason games would serve to increase revenue to offset those lost from the reduction of the preseason.
Some owners initially wanted to renew the league’s push, from the previous set of CBA negotiations leading to the 2011 deal with the players, for an 18-game season. But the union strenuously resisted then and has continued to object, leading the owners to scale back their pursuit of a longer regular season and aim for 17 games.
Under such a plan, each team would potentially play one neutral-site game per season. Or teams could alternate between seasons with eight and nine home games.
“I’m old enough to remember when we had 12 games,” Rooney said Wednesday. “So things change. You have to adjust and do what’s best for the game.”
The NFLPA declined to comment Wednesday on the issue.
The current 10-year CBA runs through the 2020 season. Negotiations are said to be far more amicable than they were before the owners locked out the players before the 2011 agreement.
“The discussions have been consistent,” Goodell said. “We’ve had very open dialogue. We all know the various issues. I think it’s been productive. I don’t know how to gauge when or how soon. I’m hopeful that we all see the benefits of doing something earlier and that we can get something done. But that’s still to be determined.”
There has been some speculation that a deal could be struck by season’s end. Of course, that comes after previous speculation that there might be an agreement in place before the season started, which didn’t happen.
“I don’t want to put a date on it,” Rooney said. “These things, you never know when the day is going to come. But like I said, the commissioner doesn’t want us to be talking about it. We need to keep the conversation going at the negotiating table before we say much publicly about it.”
Goodell also said that the league’s investigation of free agent wide receiver Antonio Brown continues.
“We’re working at that,” Goodell said. “I probably will be getting an update when I get back to New York. But our folks have been working diligently on that, going through materials. There’s a lot of material to go through.”
Brown was released by the New England Patriots after two women accused him of rape, sexual assault and intimidation. The league had been considering whether to put him on paid leave via placement on the commissioner’s exempt list. The NFL announced after Brown was released by the Patriots that he would not be placed on the exempt list while unsigned but could be put on the list if he’s signed by a team.