NFL owners have delayed a decision on implementing a 17-game regular season for 2021.
During a teleconference call Wednesday that replaced the usual December gathering of owners in Dallas, they opted to push back any move on the expanded season until early in 2021. The NFL and the players’ union agreed during collective bargaining talks earlier this year to add one regular-season game to the schedule, but not before next season.
“We had a lengthy discussion on this. Obviously, it’s an important decision for us,” NFL commissioner Roger Goodell said. “We did not take any votes with respect to committing to do it. In the collective bargaining agreement, we have that right to do it.”
A scheduling formula for a 17th game was approved unanimously: an interconference matchup, based on divisional standings from the preceding season and on a rotating divisional basis. The idea is to facilitate competitive fairness, create additional value through quality matchups and preserve the objectivity of the scheduling process, the NFL said.
“It obviously comes into play with respect with our future media arrangements that we obviously are contemplating,” Goodell said of the scheduling. “We expect a decision will be made on that in the next several weeks.”
During the meeting, the issue of the preseason was raised, with the discussion centering on whether there should be a reduction in games. Sources told ESPN’s Seth Wickersham that Goodell seemed in favor of shortening the preseason from four games to two but that a group of powerful owners — New England‘s Robert Kraft, Dallas‘ Jerry Jones, the New York Giants‘ John Mara and Pittsburgh‘s Art Rooney II — dismissed the idea. Owners argued that a reduction to three preseason games might work but not two. No vote was taken, and the schedule remained unchanged.
Goodell acknowledged that playing through the pandemic has provided plenty of lessons and said the NFL will confer with the NFL Players Association after the Super Bowl to discuss 2020 measures that might make sense to keep in a post-COVID-19 landscape.
Changes worthy of further consideration include aspects of the virtual NFL draft, the training camp acclimation period, expanded practice squads and unlimited callbacks from injured reserve.
“This has been a period of learning,” Goodell said. “I think it’s forced us to think differently and innovate, and we’ll look at that and see how we implement it going forward.”
The owners also approved the Tennessee Titans realigning ownership, with Amy Adams Strunk remaining the primary owner. Goodell said the matter should be completed by the end of December.
“I think it strengthens our ownership in a way that is very positive,” Goodell said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.