Roger Goodell Shares What He Really Thinks About the NFL’s Additional 17th Game: ‘It’s What I Call Flight to Quality’

People love the NFL, which receives the highest TV ratings of all American pro sports leagues. So more football is seemingly a good thing. That’s what the league was thinking when it added a 17th game to the regular season starting this year after teams have played 16 games since 1978.

The NFL received some criticism about the addition. An extra game opens up the possibility for more injuries to players. But overall fans seem to be happy with the extra football action. Based on comments that NFL commissioner Roger Goodell shared on a podcast, he appears to agree with the fans.

Roger Goodell’s thoughts on a 17-game season

NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell looks on before an NFL game
Commissioner Roger Goodell at an NFL game | Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

Goodell recently appeared on Morten Andersen’s Great Dane Nation podcast. The retired Hall of Fame kicker-turned-podcast-host asked the commissioner to give his thoughts on the addition of the 17th game.

Andersen asked Goodell if he agrees that the extra game will add more competitiveness and intrigue to the season’s end with more teams in the playoff hunt. Goodell did agree, saying with more teams fighting for playoff spots it’s “great for our fans” and it creates “the excitement and the drama that we’re all looking for.”

With the extra regular-season game came the elimination of a preseason game for each team. Goodell says, “It’s what I call flight to quality,” giving fans more of what they want and less of what they don’t.

The NFL considered safety before the 17th game was added

Goodell’s answer to Andersen’s question seems to be pretty PR-friendly, as you can imagine. But he also seems to genuinely believe the extra game is good for the NFL. The commissioner even addressed the safety aspect that critics of the change question.

Goodell says the league has spent 10-12 years studying the difference in safety between a preseason game and a regular-season contest. He explained, “It turns out that a regular-season game, from an injury standpoint, is actually safer than a preseason game. So we think we can do this safely.”

Based on the evidence, swapping one for the other shouldn’t add much injury risk for NFL players. The commissioner continued on the topic of safety, explaining that the NFL continues to modify the way teams train, practice, and compete to make things easier on players.

“We’re taking a lot of techniques out of the game that have caused injuries,” explains Goodell. “So we think we can continue to do this in a safe way.” With the extra safety measures put in place, the NFL is confident the extra late-season drama will be worth the addition of a week to the regular season.

Profits and partners were also taken into account

The NFL is a business. Profits are always going to be top-of-mind whenever the league makes a change to how it operates. The league’s business partners are also part of any discussion that affects them — with sponsors and the TV broadcasters among the NFL’s biggest partners.

The networks that televise NFL games are happy with the 17th game. It gives them another week of the NFL to air. Likewise, sponsors are happy because it’s an extra week of football fans seeing their advertisements. For players, an extra game means an extra game check, so they’re also happy with the change.

And the NFL is thrilled with the schedule change as well. An extra week of TV means more money that the broadcasters pay the league for the rights to air games. Same with sponsors. The extra 16 games that come from that extra week leads to more sponsorship money coming in for the teams and the league.

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