February 1

NFL likely to expand playoffs to 14 teams

Commissioner Roger Goodell said 'there's a lot of benefits' to adding two extra teams to the postseason.

The Associated Press

NEW YORK — If Commissioner Roger Goodell gets his way, change could be coming to the NFL.

click image to enlarge

NFL comissioner Roger Goodell speaks at a news conference Friday in New York. Goodell announced proposed changes for the NFL, including adding two teams to the playoffs.

The Associated Press

Adding playoff teams. Monitoring instant replay from league headquarters. Possibly creating a set of guidelines to prevent locker-room bullying.

Short on details or precise timetables, and acknowledging he'll need approval from team owners for action, Goodell painted the picture of an ever-evolving league during his annual pre-Super Bowl news conference, held Friday in a theater in midtown Manhattan.

Goodell said "there's a lot of benefits" to increasing the postseason field from 12 to 14 clubs.

"We think we can make the league more competitive. We think we can make the matchups more competitive toward the end of the season. There will be more excitement, more memorable moments for our fans. And that's something that attracts us," Goodell said. "We think we can do it properly from a competitive standpoint. So this will continue to get very serious consideration by the competition committee."

That sort of proposal would require "Yes" votes from 24 of the 32 owners.

At least one who attended Goodell's speech, Jeffrey Lurie of the Philadelphia Eagles, sounded in favor of the idea, with a couple of caveats: He wouldn't want to let too many teams into the postseason, and he'd like to hear more about scheduling.

"We don't want to become like some other sports, where it's too easy to make the playoffs," Lurie said. "Adding one team would not put us in a counterproductive situation. But when you would play the games, I think, is very important, so that the following games, you have virtually an equal time to prepare."

Making a not-so-subtle reference to mistakes by game officials this season, Goodell said that committee also will make recommendations to the 32 owners about having replays from all games overseen by the league office.

Major League Baseball recently joined the NHL as sports that have centralized replay systems.

"We think there's plenty of room for us to improve the game of football, and officiating in particular. What we all want is consistency and fairness in our officiating," Goodell said.

"I do believe there is a possibility that some version of that will occur — where our office can at least be involved with the decision. It may not make the decision," he added, "but at least can provide some input that would be helpful to the officials on the field to make sure they're seeing every angle."

Pittsburgh Steelers owner Dan Rooney said he needs more information before deciding whether he'd be in favor.

"Our situation is different than hockey. But I think we should look at everything," Rooney said. "Maybe we want to expand the number of incidents that you look at. A lot of times they'll say, 'That's not reviewable.' Look into that, for example."

New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft likes the suggestion.

"Games should be standardized and have the same people making the calls," Kraft said. "I don't want to ever lose a game based on poor interpretation of rules by (different) officials."

Another focal point, according to Goodell, will be preventing the kind of alleged bullying that rocked the Miami Dolphins this season.

"I've already begun discussions with outside parties. I've discussed it with the union, I've also met with several groups of players, individually and collectively, to talk about the circumstances. What needs to be done?" Goodell said. "Some of it will be education. Some of it possibly could be policy change."

(Continued on page 2)

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