Notebook: Expanded playoffs tabled for now

The NFL won’t expand the playoffs for the 2015 season, but it’s still a possibility in the future. Plus, Roger Goodell discussed ongoing investigations and other matters at the owners meetings.

The NFL continues to examine the idea of expanding its playoffs, but a decision on that issue was delayed at this week’s NFL owners meetings in Phoenix.

Commissioner Roger Goodell said league officials and owners had a “healthy discussion” about expanding the playoffs, but for now the issue is on hold.

“Several factors went into the decision to at least postpone the expanded playoffs. Some of them would be on the competitive side,” Goodell said. “The last two years, interestingly enough, it’s been inconsistent with our experience in the past in that the last two weeks we actually would have had five less teams that would have qualified for the playoffs under the 14-team format than the 12. And that’s a little bit counterintuitive due to the experience we had. So whenever we make a change like this we want to look at what are the positives and negatives? What are the unintended consequences?”

Goodell said the league wants to maintain the importance of performing well in the regular season in order for teams to make the playoffs.

Scheduling additional playoff games is also a concern with the NCAA National Championship, and the NFL doesn’t want to interfere with that. Having playoff games broadcast on Thursday night is a possibility and one that Goodell believes would be “attractive.”

“I know we would have interest from the networks on an expanded playoffs regardless if it was part of the Thursday night package,” he said.
“We just felt the right thing for us to do was to take another year, evaluate all this, and make the right decision long term.”

The NFL made no announcement for potential discipline in a few ongoing investigations.

The league asked investigator Ted Wells to be “thorough” while looking into allegations that the New England Patriots used improperly inflated footballs during a playoff game, and the league has placed no timeline for that investigation to conclude.

“I made it very clear at the Super Bowl that we were not making any judgments and that we were obligated, as part of our role, to make sure we understand the facts whenever there is a charge, potentially, of a violation of our rules,” Goodell said. “We take it very seriously and that’s our obligation. It’s our obligation to the other 31 clubs. Ted Wells will be going through the report and if there was anything that we as a league did incorrectly, we’ll know about it in that report.”

The Cleveland Browns are also under investigation after general manager Ray Farmer admitted to texting play-calling concerns to employees on the sideline during the regular season.

“It affects the integrity of the game and all 32 teams need to be operating under the same rules. Our clubs expect that and our fans expect that,” Goodell said. “So any violation is taken seriously. I have not been brought up to speed on that in the last couple of days, obviously I’ve been here, but I’m sure there will be a focus on that in the next couple of days.”

  • Goodell said he plans to keep a timetable of April 15 to talk with Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson about potentially being removed from the commissioner’s exempt list.

  • With free-agent deals reported as done before the start of free agency officially opened on March 10, Goodell said charges of tampering are being “taken seriously” and investigated.

  • Owners elected to suspend the broadcast blackout policy for 2015. Goodell said it is a matter of balancing the desire to sell out stadiums with the broadcast contracts that have changed over the last six to 10 years. The league is waiting to see what happens with sellouts at stadiums this year – there were no blackouts in 2014 and two in 2013 – before determining a long-term path for the blackout policy.

  • The NFL continues to gather facts in the Greg Hardy domestic abuse charges. Goodell said he expects the investigation to conclude “sometime in the near future and we will make a decision shortly after.”

  • Goodell said the excitement of having the draft held in Chicago this year continues to build.

    “The response we are seeing from everyone in Chicago gives us a great deal of excitement over this event,” he said. “It continues to get bigger. The excitement is building a month away from the event. It’s getting bigger physically also. There is more demand so we are trying to make sure we can meet that demand.”

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