NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell held a news conference on Tuesday at the conclusion of the Annual League Meeting to address a number of topics, including the potential flexing of games on Thursday Night Football in the future and updates on the potential sale of the Washington Commanders.
NFL team owners discussed the possibility flexing games held later in the season from Sunday to Thursday during the league meeting in Phoenix, but they were unable to come to an agreement and tabled those talks for further discussion in May.
Asked about the impact that would have on ticket holders and fans planning trips with specific game days in mind, Goodell noted the importance and care the league would and always has placed on any type of flex scheduling changes with consideration to all fans.
"There isn't anybody in that room, anybody in any of the organizations who don't put our fans first," Goodell said. "It's really important. Obviously, providing the best matchups for our fans is part of what we do. That's a part of what I think our scheduling has always focused on. And flex has been a part of that. We are very judicious with it, and we are very careful with it. And we look at all of the impacts to that.
"So before those decisions are made, I think we average in the years we've been doing it, about a flex and a half a year. It can vary any particular year. So it's a very important thing for us to balance with the season-ticket holders and the in-stadium audience. We have millions of fans who also watch on television. Reaching them is a balance that you always strike, and making sure we do it right."
The NFL has used flex scheduling since 2006 and already will be implementing it for Monday Night Football games in December for the first time during the 2023 season.
Although no decision was made on Sunday-to-Thursday flex scheduling, Giants co-owner John Mara spoke openly about his opposition to such a move on Tuesday.
"I am adamantly opposed to that," Mara told reporters ahead of Goodell's news conference. "Flexible scheduling as it is, is really inconsiderate to our season ticket holders and to people who will fill our stadiums every week. People have gotten used to going from Sunday afternoon to Sunday night. That doesn't mean they like it."
Mara also touched on the reasoning behind pushing flex-schedule talks down the road a couple of months, referencing the fact that owners agreed to expand the number of TNF games clubs can play per season on a short rest from one to two, a change he also said he opposed due to the stress on players.
Teams previously could only be scheduled to play on a short week once per year. As before, games with a normal or extended rest period, such as the Week 1 opener or a Thursday night game following a Thanksgiving one, would not factor into the new two-game limit.
"We've always been looking at the data with respect to injuries and impact on players," Goodell told reporters regarding the potential for teams to have an added short-week contest. "That drove our decisions throughout the first 12 or so years of Thursday Night Football, and how it's evolved. I think we have data that's very clear. It doesn't show higher injury rate. But we recognize shorter weeks. We went through this with COVID, too. We had to have a lot of flexibility in those areas. Those are obviously different circumstances, but we work very closely on that.
"I hear from a lot of players directly, too. They love the 10 days afterwards. In fact, they call it a mini-bye. So, there's benefits on that side. You have different views, you want to consider all of them. Players have different views, coaches have different views. We have to try to balance all that."
Goodell also commented on on the potential sale the Commanders, as well as the still-ongoing investigation by attorney Mary Jo White, hired by the NFL in Feb. 2022, into workplace misconduct allegations against the club and owner Daniel Snyder.
Snyder has owned the franchise since 1999. Snyder and his wife, Tanya, hired Bank of America Securities in Nov. 2022 to help explore transactions such as selling the team. Daniel Snyder and the franchise were also subject to a U.S. House of Committee on Oversight and Reform investigation, which concluded in Dec. 2022 that the owner had a role in the Commanders' "toxic work culture."
Goodell did not provide specifics due to both the sale and White's investigation still being in progress, but he was steadfast in his determination that the NFL will share White's findings regardless of if she completes her report before or after a potential sale of the team.
"We made that commitment back last February," he said. "We made that commitment publicly. We made it in front of Congress. We made it to our clubs. So, we'll continue with that."
The commissioner also spoke on the most recent updates in Brian Flores' discrimination case, which the now-Vikings defensive coordinator filed against the league and three teams in Feb. 2022 alleging a pattern of racist hiring practices and racial discrimination.
A federal judge recently ruled on March 1 that the case would be heard in court rather than in arbitration.
"I can't talk specifically about the case," Goodell said. "I would tell you this, I'm a huge fan of Brian Flores. He's a great football coach, and I have great respect for him as a man. I think the Vikings are lucky to have him as a defensive coordinator. I think he's going to continue to be a successful coach in the NFL. We'll see on the case, we did have a quick update on that. The decision the judge has made recently, which our attorney said they thought was the appropriate step. So, we'll keep an eye on that."