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The NFL season could expand to 17 or 18 regular-season games in the near future, NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said Wednesday at the NFL Owners Meetings. The current regular-season is 16 games, but Goodell said fans don't believe preseason games are up to NFL standards.


NFL Regular Season Could Expand to 17 or 18 Games, Goodell Says
INDIANAPOLIS – The NFL regular season could be about to get a little longer.

It will, at least, if Roger Goodell has his way.

Goodell, who will enter his fourth season as NFL Commissioner next season, closed the 2009 annual league meetings with a mid-day press conference Wednesday in Dana Point, Calif., doing so by making the most serious push yet for expanding the regular season to 17 or 18 games.

Goodell had asked the NFL's Competition Committee this offseason to analyze the possibility of expanding the schedule.

"The big feedback we had is they can do this and do this effectively," Goodell said. "That's the core issue, that depending on whether it's 17 or 18, there are certain things they might want to look into to make sure the quality of the game stays strong, but what we heard very firmly back again is that it can get done and it can continue to build the quality of the game."

Goodell said any expansion likely would involve taking the existing 20-game regular-season/preseason format and altering it from the existing four-preseason/16 regular-season format to a format of 17 or 18 regular-season games and three or two preseason games.

"It's a 20-game season," Goodell said. "What we're trying to do is improve the quality of what we're doing. There's a strongly-held view internally – and I believe with our fans – that they don't believe preseason games are up to our standards.

"By modifying the 20-game structure and swapping out preseason games for regular-season games, that's a very positive change for our fans and improves the quality of what we're doing."

Goodell said he hopes to present a proposal to the owners in May.

"It's possible that we could vote in May, but we want to have core discussions on this," Goodell told the Associated Press Wednesday. "Anytime you have change, there is some reluctance. But it's clear we don't need four preseason games anymore."

The NFL also on Wednesday approved two rules changes:

1) Beginning next off-season, the draft order for the 21st through 32nd teams will be determined based on playoff result rather than regular-season record. The rule will prevent a team that makes the post-season from selecting before No. 21, as will be the case next month when AFC West Champion San Diego will select No. 16 after winning its division with an 8-8 record.

2) Beginning next season, the instant-replay system will be expanded to include quarterback pass/fumbles when the ruling on the field is an incomplete pass. This will allow a play such as the much-discussed fumble/incomplete pass by Denver Broncos quarterback Jay Cutler against San Diego in Week 2 last season to be reviewed. Last year, such a play was not considered reviewable.

CHANGES POSSIBLE: Colts Head Coach Jim Caldwell, speaking at the NFL Owners Meetings in Dana Point, Calif., Tuesday, updated media members on a few Colts-related topics. Among them: a projected change at the linebacker position, with Clint Session — a starter at strongside linebacker this past season — moving to weak side to compete for the job.

The news was reed on

Philip Wheeler, a third-round selection in the 2008 NFL Draft who played mostly special teams this past season, will move to strong side, Caldwell told the website. Freddy Keiaho started at weak-side backer the past two seasons, but became a free agent late last month, as did four-year veteran Tyjuan Hagler.

Caldwell, speaking to the media at the annual AFC coaches breakfast, also addressed the Colts' defensive scheme, saying the team will continue to run the Tampa 2 defense it has run since 2002.

Caldwell also said second-year veteran running back Mike Hart is ahead of schedule rehabilitating from a season-ending knee injury. And he said that for now, second-year veterans Chad Simpson and Lance Ball will compete for the backup job behind 2007 Pro Bowl selection Joseph Addai.

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