NFL returning to Mexico City
A dozen years after the Arizona Cardinals defeated the San Francisco 49ers at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City in the first regular-season game played outside of America, the NFL will return to Mexico's capital for a third regular-season matchup since that first game in 2005. Mexico has hosted nine total games since 1978, including eight in Mexico City (two regular-season games, six exhibition) and one exhibition game in Monterrey.
NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell announced Wednesday that the Patriots and Raiders will play next year following up on the warm welcome Mexico City gave the Raiders and Texans in 2016.
"We had a great experience last year," Goodell said. "The Texans and the Raiders, we couldn't have asked for a better reception from our fans in Mexico. We always envisioned that it would be more than a one-year commitment. We're going to come back next season. The Raiders and the Patriots will be playing there next season.
Beyond the ability to expand the NFL's games internationally, Goodell said the sport's capacity for connecting people.
"One of the things that we truly believe in our hearts is that the NFL really does bond communities together and can be a bridge in that way," Goodell said. "It unites people. We're going to see it this weekend with the Super Bowl, where millions of people are going to tune in and they're going to celebrate and they're going to all forget about other things for at least a short period of time and really focus on having fun and being entertained by the Super Bowl.
"That's something that we're proud of, and by having the Patriots and Raiders play in Mexico next year, we hope that that very positive will show that we're reaching out to our fans in Mexico, we're reaching out to our Hispanic fans here in the United States. We're going to continue to do those things. We think they're positive and they can be helpful overall."
NFL looking at changes to broadcasts, game management
To make NFL games more "action-packed," Goodell named a few changes that he and the league are scouting to speed up games.
"We're going to have the competition committee focusing on several issues," he said. "One is, on instant replay, would we bring the Surface tablet to the sideline to try to speed that process up so they could make a decision more quickly, and resume the game as quickly as possible so we don't have unnecessary delays? Would we look at a clock that would occur from the moment an extra point is kicked to the kickoff so that we don't have unnecessary delays, getting the teams onto the field so there could be a play clock that would essentially dictate when the teams would have to be prepared for the kickoff? We're going to look at a number of other changes in the way we manage the game, whether we make announcements on replay before the replay starts or whether we just go and do the replay. So there are a number of things where we think we can shorten the management of the game, focus less on stoppages of the game and more on action."
While those are more focused on game management on the field, Goodell also said that they were thinking about changing the number of television breaks during games.
"From a commercial standpoint, we did test in Week 16 and we did test in the Yahoo! game last year — we want to look at should we have the same number of breaks? We have five breaks per quarter. We think we can do it in four breaks per quarter. That is something that we're leaning very heavily into. That's not a competition committee issue but it's an issue with our membership and our broadcast partners. We see opportunities to do that and maybe we remove some of the stoppages as well as some of the commercialized aspects of the game. We think less is more in this area and we can do it with the right balance that will improve the quality of the experience in the stadium or also on television. That's what we're focusing on so I expect to see a lot of those changes this offseason."
While on the topic of game broadcasts, he also touched on Thursday Night Football, which might not require all teams to play a game on Thursday anymore.
"We are thinking about whether we reevaluate that and maybe don't have quite the number of teams and maybe even change the staggering of our Thursday night games so you have consecutive games on CBS, consecutive games on the NFL Network and then consecutive games on NBC," Goodell said. "We've heard from our fans a great deal, 'Where is the game? We want to know where the game is.' So we are going to look at all of that, and continue to work on something that we think has gotten off to an incredible start and we are very optimistic about the future on that."
But he emphasized that the games perform very well in Thursday-night prime time.
"Thursday Night Football is something that we are very committed to," Goodell said. "Thursday Night Football ended up being the number-two rated show on all of prime time on NBC this year and number four on CBS. So we see our fans reacting positively to that. There is a lot of discussion about the safety of the game, but we have seen absolutely no indications that there is any further risk of injuries, and injury rates are actually slightly lower on Thursday night than they are on Sunday. When it relates to the quality of the game, we've seen that be incredibly positive also. We've seen less turnovers. We've seen less penalties on almost every aspect of what you would say the quality of the game. We've seen high quality football on Thursday night."
NFL not deterred by gambling if relocation to Las Vegas is approved
Though Goodell noted that the league still needs to evaluate the Raiders' relocation application to move to Las Vegas, he said that as long as the NFL maintains its integrity and separation from gambling, there shouldn't be any problems with having a franchise in Nevada's biggest city.
"We hadn't made a determination about Las Vegas as an NFL market," he said. "That's part of the relocation process. The Raiders submitted an application. It's one that we're considering carefully, but there is a great deal of work to be done and there are several elements of that. Financing of the stadium is just one. Obviously, the stadium project itself, the depth of the market, all of those are things that we've studied over the last several months, but that will increase in intensity over the next month or so as we move forward in that process.
"As it relates to whether gambling can coexist with the NFL — in fact, it does. It's happening today. It's sponsored by governments. It exists throughout our world. What we have always said is we need to make sure that there's a fine line between team-sports gambling and the NFL. We want to protect the integrity of our game, and that's the line we will always do."
Goodell not worried about Broncos' ownership
To finish the press conference, Goodell was asked about whether the league has any concerns about the Broncos' ownership plan with Pat Bowlen battling Alzheimer's Disease.
"They have an owner — it's Pat Bowlen," Goodell said. "Unfortunately, he has significant health challenges right now. I worked with Pat directly, so I know he had set up a set up a system that was compliant with our rules, if such an unfortunate situation occurred. Pat is someone that I deeply admire and respect, so the trust has worked effectively in the short term, but it's a decision at some point in time, that the membership will have to make. The finance committee and the broader membership of whether that's compliant and whether any changes they can make beyond the trust will be consistent with our policies."