Roger Goodell: Concussions, Flex Scheduling, and Officiating

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Goodell Speaks: Concussions, Pro Bowl, Flex Scheduling, and the State of Officiating in the NFL


On Wednesday, NFL commissioner Roger Goodell spoke to the media in Phoenix as part of his yearly Super Bowl week state of the league.

Goodell answered questions from the media on a myriad of topics both on and off the field. Let’s dive into some of the essential takeaways from the annual check-in with the commissioner.

Flex Scheduling

How many times did I write about how much the Thursday night game stunk this season? A lot. More often than not, they stunk. Having the option to flex the Thursday night game like the NFL has done with Sunday Night Football for some time now would have been fantastic.

While Goodell said that won’t happen in 2023, it’s on the NFL’s radar as a future option:

“It wouldn’t at all surprise me at some point that we have (flex scheduling) on Thursdays at some stage, but not today,” Goodell said. “But it will certainly be something on our horizon.”

However, with a new television contract starting in 2023, Monday night games will now have the same flex option that the NFL has with Sunday night games. So, at least two of the three prime-time games each week now have flex options.

It’s progress, and I’ll take it for now. But you better bet I’m likely going to be complaining about the Thursday night games sometimes around Thanksgiving next season.

Concussions in the NFL

Concussions were on center stage this season as Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa dealt with multiple scary moments. First, Tua was slammed to the ground on “Thursday Night Football” when Bengals defensive lineman Josh Tupou sacked him.

Tagovailoa was eventually carted off the field and missed the Dolphins’ next two games. Tua missed the season’s final two games, and the Dolphins’ Wild Card loss to Buffalo with another concussion suffered on Christmas Day against the Packers.

As a result, the NFL acknowledged ataxia as a possible sign of a concussion, and the league and the NFLPA agreed to pull players from the game when those symptoms are present.

Goodell said concussion evaluations increased by 17 percent as a result. Goodell attributed the increase in concussion evaluations to the increased number of concussions diagnosed around the league.

“We don’t want concussions to occur. We want to prevent them, and we want to treat them, but we’re not afraid of having them be diagnosed.”

Eliminating kickoffs has long been lobbied as a potential method of reducing concussions in the NFL. As a result, the kickoff location was already moved from the 20 to the 25-yard line in that vein. A comment by Goodell on Wednesday made it clear that the NFL is considering that in some fashion:

“We have some techniques that we’ve seen develop through the season that we want to look at,” Goodell said. “There are a couple that we think have led to injuries that we want to be cautious of and try to see if there’s a way to remove those from the game. We still see elevated injuries, particularly concussions, on special teams. We want to make sure we’re doing everything possible there.”

Pro Bowl Format

As for the reimagined Pro Bowl Games, Goodell says that the flag football format is here to stay.

“I think we have a lot to build on there, and I don’t see us going back in any way. I think this is the future for us.”

As I wrote last week, the new Pro Bowl Games format was a huge hit with the players. But, of course, there’s work to be done moving forward.

Figuring out how to make the skills competitions more accessible to fans was a big takeaway that I had. Sixty thousand people packed Allegiant Stadium on Sunday. Limiting the Skills Competition to the Raiders training facility and pre-recording half of the events was a missed opportunity.

Then there’s the challenge of taking the good from those events and fine-tuning and improving the offering. Some were good. Some were not.

Finally, reworking the Sunday event, specifically the downtime between the flag football games, was the players’ only gripe with the event. So, the NFL will need to look into that. I understand they wanted to give the fans a three-hour event, but some things must be moved around to accommodate all parties.

If you dig the event being in Las Vegas, you’re in luck. It sounds like both the Pro Bowl and Super Bowl will be in Vegas next season:

“I think I’d be making a mistake underestimating anything that happens in Vegas and how big it can be,” Goodell said. “The draft was extraordinary for us. The Pro Bowl last week was incredibly well done.”


This was the laughing out loud portion of the press conference …

When Goodell was asked about the state of officiating in the NFL, he said he doesn’t “think it’s ever been better.”

Goodell went on to say that the NFL’s officials are held to “an incredibly high standard” and that the league will continue to try to improve.

Listen, if you expected Goodell to say otherwise, you do not understand the scope of his job. Goodell is the commissioner, but his job is to protect the interests of the 32 owners that make up the NFL. Point blank. Full stop. Goodell serves the interests of the owners. He’s not going to destroy the league’s officiating on a public stage and call into question the integrity of the game.

Another thing that will never happen is the NFL moving to hire full-time referees. I’ve heard that a bunch this week, and it’s simply not happening. The league isn’t going to take on the cost of adding an entire roster of full-time referees.

Author: Patrick K. Flowers

Patrick is the Lead NFL Writer at Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @PatrickKFlowers.