By JOHN WAWROW
BATAVIA, N.Y. (AP) — Four preseason games remain too much for Roger Goodell.
The NFL Commissioner on Monday reiterated his stance of wanting to reduce the preseason schedule at a time the league and players’ association have begun preliminary talks on a new collective bargaining agreement.
“I feel what we should be doing is always to the highest quality, and I’m not sure preseason games meet that level right now,” Goodell said, while participating in Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Jim Kelly’s 33rd charity golf tournament outside of Buffalo, New York.
“I’m not sure, talking with coaches, that four preseason games is necessary any more to get ready for a season to evaluate players, develop players,” he added. “There are other ways of doing that, and we’ve had a lot of discussions about that.”
The NFL has long backed reducing the preseason schedule in exchange for expanding the regular season to as many as 18 games. Players have balked at the proposal by citing safety issues and a desire to receive additional compensation for playing a longer regular season.
Without revealing any details, Goodell called it “the best sign” the league and union have already had discussions some 21 months before the CBA expires following the 2020 season.
In touching on several other topics, Goodell said the NFL has scheduled a series of conference calls with coaches this week to go over a proposal to expand replay reviews and allow them to challenge pass-interference calls in the final two minutes.
Goodell backed a decision made at the owners’ meeting last month to table a proposal to change the overtime rule and require each team to have one possession regardless of what happens on the opening OT series.
“I don’t know if I’d go for the fair possession,” Goodell said noting he likes “the sudden-death nature of the current rule” in which the game ends if a team scores a touchdown on its opening possession.
The change was pushed by the Chiefs. Kansas City lost last season’s AFC championship game without getting the ball in overtime because the New England Patriots won the toss, received the kickoff and scored a touchdown.
“If you get the football to start the overtime period and you drive all the way down and score a touchdown, most coaches say, ‘Hey, we deserved to lose. We didn’t stop them.’ That’s part of football,” he said.
Goodell also reiterated the league’s preference in pushing for the Bills to build a new stadium to replace their existing facility, which was built in 1973. He said new stadiums play a key role in ensuring franchise stability by continuing to attract fans, who expect more modern amenities due to technological advancements made over the past two decades.
The Bills are six months into conducting a feasibility study on whether to build a new stadium downtown or remain at their existing site in Orchard Park, New York.
“I think they’re doing the work and talking about what it takes and what they need because each one of these, there’s no secret sauce,” Goodell said.
“What works in Dallas doesn’t work in Buffalo necessarily,” he added. “The reason why I’m supportive is I want to make sure this franchise remains stable here, and continues and remains competitive. I think it’s great for this community.”
Responding to Goodell’s comments, Erie County Executive Mark Poloncarz issued a statement revealing the county and team have had preliminary discussions regarding the future of the Bills’ home. The county holds the lease on New Era Field, and also provides the team annual funding for operational and capital costs.
Though negotiations won’t begin until the feasibility study is completed, Poloncarz for the first time didn’t rule out construction of a new stadium by writing “all options are on the table.”
A New York State-funded study in 2014 projected the next round of renovations at New Era Field would cost $540 million, including structural improvements and rebuilding the stadium’s third deck. A new facility would cost almost double, depending on location, whether it features a roof, and how much infrastructure upgrades — expanded roads, access ramps, public transportation — might be necessary.
The Bills’ study will also consider how much public funding might be required.
Kelly, who played his 11-year career with the Bills before retiring after the 1996 season, expressed a strong preference to have the Bills continue playing in Orchard Park, even if it means building a new facility across the street.
“I can’t see one downtown. I just think it’s just too much. But you never know,” Kelly said, noting he lives a five-minute drive from New Era Field. “I love where we’re at. I don’t think we need one right away. But I’m not the owner. I’m not the commissioner. I don’t make those decisions.”