PHOENIX — NFL team owners gathered here for a three-day annual league meeting beginning Sunday at which they will consider a contract extension for Commissioner Roger Goodell, a flexible-scheduling plan for Thursday night games and rule-change proposals dealing with instant replay, punts and kickoffs, players’ jersey numbers, playoff seeding, emergency quarterbacks, stadium clocks and other topics.
The meeting is expected to last through Tuesday. The owners are pausing consideration of removing Daniel Snyder from ownership of the Washington Commanders while they await developments on the potential sale of the team, Snyder’s attempts to be indemnified and the NFL investigation being conducted by attorney Mary Jo White, two people familiar with the league’s inner workings and the owners’ views said Friday.
The owners on the NFL’s compensation committee are working to finalize a contract extension with Goodell that is likely to run until the spring of 2027, just past his 68th birthday. His current deal expires in March 2024. The owners plan to discuss Goodell’s pending extension but it is not clear whether they will apply the finishing touches and ratify it here or at their next scheduled meeting in May in Minneapolis.
“We just haven’t gotten around to pinning down the numbers,” one person familiar with the owners’ views said. “It’s not going to be a problem. Just maybe not at this meeting.”
The league confirmed Friday that owners will consider and potentially vote on a measure to allow for flexible scheduling for the Thursday Night Football package carried by Amazon Prime. Goodell said during Super Bowl week that he would not be surprised if the NFL eventually has flexible scheduling for Thursday night games. That apparently could happen sooner than anticipated.
The league has long used flexible scheduling for Sunday night games on NBC, allowing some unattractive matchups late in the season to be replaced by more appealing games. There will be flexible scheduling beginning in the 2023 season for Monday night games on ESPN.
But Thursday night games are not popular with players and changing a game from a Sunday to a Thursday night would be more disruptive for coaches, players and ticket holders. It is not clear whether there will be meaningful pushback to such a proposal or what level of involvement, if any, the NFL Players Association might have.
There are no particularly high-profile rule-change proposals for the owners to consider at this meeting. But there are a variety of proposals, some made by the NFL’s competition committee and others submitted by individual teams. Any proposal must be ratified by at least 24 of the 32 teams to be enacted.
The proposals put forth by the competition committee include one to have the ball spotted at the 25-yard line on a touchback on a punt, and another to spot the ball at the 25-yard line on a fair catch made by the receiving team inside the 25 on a kickoff.
A priority of the committee in recent years has been to attempt to make special-teams plays safer. One of the strategies has been to try to reduce the number of returns by making touchbacks more attractive. The NFL previously moved the spot of the ball from the 20- to the 25-yard line for touchbacks on kickoffs.
The Los Angeles Rams have proposed making roughing the passer reviewable by instant replay, a measure that seems unlikely to be ratified by the owners. The competition committee generally opposes making such subjective calls by the on-field officials subject to replay reviews, citing the NFL’s failed experiment in the 2019 season with making pass interference calls and non-calls reviewable.
There are other replay-related proposals by individual teams this year. The Detroit Lions have proposed making personal fouls reviewable. They also have proposed allowing a team to have a third replay challenge in a game by getting either of the first two correct, rather than the current rule that requires a need to get both of them correct. The Houston Texans have proposed allowing the replay official to consult with the on-field officials on the spot of the ball on a failed fourth-down attempt by an offensive team.
The Lions have proposed allowing a team to list an inactive third quarterback on game day who could play in the game if the team’s two active quarterbacks are injured and ruled out. That comes after the San Francisco 49ers were left without a healthy quarterback during their lopsided loss at Philadelphia in the NFC championship game.
The Eagles have proposed a fourth-and-20 alternative to the onside kick after similar proposals involving a fourth-and-15 option in recent years were not approved. The Eagles have also proposed allowing players to wear zero as their jersey number and requiring stadium game clocks to display the remaining game time in tenths of a second in the final 30 seconds of each half.
The Los Angeles Chargers have proposed allowing a wild-card team to be seeded ahead of a division winner in the playoffs if the division winner has a losing record and the wild-card team has at least four more victories. In the past, owners have not been willing to take away a home playoff game from a division winner, even one that finishes below .500.
Many teams proposed having a single roster-reduction deadline during the preseason.
There are no proposals related to a prospective ban on hip-drop tackles, like those that resulted in ankle injuries during the most recent NFL playoffs to Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes and Dallas Cowboys running back Tony Pollard, or to a potential prohibition on offensive players pushing a quarterback ahead on quarterback sneaks, a technique utilized extensively by the Eagles with Jalen Hurts.
League leaders said Friday there will be ongoing discussions on both issues.